Unethical behavior in small nonprofit.

What happens when the founder of a small nonprofit misrepresents their credentials and lies about working on legislation in Wisconsin?

Screenshot of Melissa Smith’s Ph.D. claim. Smith is the founder of the nonprofit Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife. The claim was published on a flier for a Wildlife Conservation and Coexistence Initiative held on July 27, 2015. The claim was found to be false.

Starting in 2011 there has been an escalating supply of moral meltdowns in one nonprofit by the founder. What happens when the founder of a small nonprofit misrepresents their credentials and lies about working on legislation concerning Wisconsin wolves? Melissa Smith does have a B.S. in Sociology but does not hold a Ph.D.. Smith never worked with Wisconsin Senator Fred Risser on SB 93, a bill that would remove the use of dogs in the wolf hunt. But smith lied to the public claiming all of the above.

The following video shows how far Melissa Smith, executive director of Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance, is willing to go in order to get attention. In the video, Smith makes a false claim by stating being a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe.  Smith is not a member of the Ho-Chunk Tribe.

Uploaded on May 21, 2015

As Wisconsin wolves were being delisted in 2011 Smith arrived on the scene, lacking any experience or scientific degrees. Smith created Stop the Wisconsin Wolf Hunts, now Called Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, and began soliciting donations. Wolf advocates began to blindly follow Smith. They believed her because she could talk a good talk. No one checked Smith’s credentials. Senior Trump administration official, Mina Chang, misrepresented her credentials and fooled many officials just as Smith did.

According to an article in Market Watch on November 2019; The State Department worker resigned Monday after being accused of embellishing her educational achievements and even faking a Time magazine cover. Senior Trump administration official Mina Chang resigned from her post on Monday, a week after an NBC News investigation accused her of not only embellishing her work history and educational achievements but also reportedly creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it.”

“Resigning is the only acceptable moral and ethical option for me at this time,” wrote Chang, 35, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, in a resignation letter obtained by Politico. Her resignation is effective immediately.

Mina Chang is not the only one to embellish her educational achievements. In Wisconsin, Melissa Smith, President of a small nonprofit Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, has embellished her educational accomplishments by claiming to hold a Ph.D. and a master’s in sociology. Smith published a flyer about a conference with the claim on it. Smith does not hold a Ph.D. degree. Did Smith do the right thing and resign her position as head of the small nonprofit like Chang did? Absolutely not, and she is still head of the nonprofit. She’s at the helm and running a small nonprofit soliciting donations.

Updated as of 12/08/22, Smith continues to spread misinformation to her followers regarding the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wolf Management draft plan.  she doesn’t have a biology degree yet continues to undermine anyone that does.  Remember, she came out of nowhere in 2011, forming a nonprofit, collecting donations, and has misrepresented her credentials.  Is she qualified to lead on such an important matter as the wolf management plan?  Watch the following video of Smith’s latest follies into misrepresenting scientific data.

A private foundation is an independent legal entity set up for solely charitable purposes. Unlike a public charity, which relies on public fundraising to support its activities, the funding for a private foundation typically comes from a single individual, in this case, Melissa Smith, a family, or a corporation, which receives a tax deduction for donations.

In this case Melissa Smith, a family, or a corporation, receives a tax deduction for donations.Smiths’ nonprofit is a Private Foundation: As a private foundation Smith can pick who sits on her board and where the funds are invested; How and where funds are given away. Does Smith’s donors realize she’s running a private foundation?

There’s more, back in 2013 during the wolf hunts, Wisconsin was the only state that allowed hunters to run dogs on wolves, as a result, a Wisconsin Senator wrote a bill to stop it. Smith claimed to co-write that bill, Senate Bill 93, with Senator Fred Risser of Wisconsin. The Senator’s office caught wind of Smith’s claim and sent her a letter asking to stop misrepresenting her association with them.

The following is an email from Senator’s office confirming they sent a letter to Smith:

Dated Thursday, April 11, 2013, sent from Cassie Jurenci, Office of Senator Fred Risser, Wisconsin State Senate to Ms. Smith in an email telling her that we have received numerous contacts asking about her involvement with our office concerning SB 93 and that we have been telling those who ask that she has not been working with us and there is some misrepresentation occurring.

Smith made these things claims during a time when Wisconsin’s wolves were being brutally hunted. Wolves were taken off the Endangered Species List in 2011 and states like Wisconsin held trophy wolf hunts.

Let’s go back to Mina Chang’s claims. Chang also claims to have “addressed” both the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2016, when she actually spoke at separate events held in Philadelphia and Cleveland at the same time. And in a 2017 video interview discussing her nonprofit work, she held up a Time magazine cover with her face on it, which the publication told NBC is “not authentic.” Chang also runs a nonprofit. Nonprofits solicit the public for donations, as does Smith’s small nonprofit.

Melissa Smith runs a small nonprofit, a private foundation to be exact, that recently asked for donations to use as a reward for information about an illegal wolf kill in Wisconsin. Who’s monitoring how said donations are used? Can Smith be trusted to handle donations if she’s hiding the truth about her credentials?

In 2019, Smith made a claim to the press in an article stating she’s a former wolf tracker. I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and they stated Smith took a workshop about the history of Wisconsin wolves, but never took the required workshops to become an official Wisconsin DNR Volunteer Winter Wolf/Carnivore Tracker. Thus, there’s no evidence of Smith being an official former wolf tracker as she stated to the press. So why did Smith claim to be a former wolf tracker?

Did she want to appear knowledgeable about wolf behavior? In the news article on August 16, 2019, Smith comes off as an experienced wolf expert stating all sorts of opinions that cannot be backed up because she has no background in ecology or wolf biology. Smith simply talks a good talk.

What could be behind Smith’s embellishments of credentials? Let’s take a look at the public records. According to Wisconsin Circuit Court Records, Melissa L Smith was arrested for a third Driving Under the Influence (DUI) on January 17, 2013. Smith was sentenced to 90 days to be served at home, had to wear an ankle monitor, and lost her driver’s license for 27 months (two years and three months). And now there’s a 4th OWI arrest from 2018 which in the state of Wisconsin is a felony. Smith’s case is set for a jury trial on January 26th, 2022.

*Update 01/27/22: Melissa L Smith was found guilty of Refusing to Take a Test for Intoxication After Arrest. This is not a criminal offense and results only in a monetary penalty for this offense. Smith was arrested in 2018 but due to the Covid pandemic, her trial was delayed, and in the meantime, the arresting officer died. The state was without a witness because of the officer’s death, and the defense filed a motion asserting discovery claims. The police officer passing may have been an issue, under the 6th amendment there is a right to confront witnesses.

I’m all for offenders being given a chance to turn it around and make good. As long as they sincerely work to make restitution. Smith has not, and she continues to deceive the public trust, as recently as in an August 2019 article that claimed false experience as a former wolf tracker. I ask again: do Smith’s donors know she’s a private foundation?

Why lie about their education? Unfortunately, people like Smith and Chang often think that exaggerating about their education is worth the risk if it means getting them through the door of a great job or getting them more donations for their nonprofits.

Fifty-eight Percent of Employers Have Caught a Lie on a Resume, According to a New Career Builder survey.

Is it against the law to embellish your educational credentials? It’s not against the law, but it’s unethical.

“Resigning is the only acceptable moral and ethical option for me at this time,” wrote Chang, 35, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, in a resignation letter obtained by Politico. Her resignation is effective immediately.

Chang did the right thing by resigning her position, unfortunately, Smith has not resigned as head of her small Wisconsin nonprofit and continues to solicit donations. Unethical behavior remains a persistent problem for Melissa Smith. It’s up to the consumer to verify a nonprofit’s status and ask for financial statements. Here’s Smith’s EIN number: 82-5403668 if anyone wants to check or verify what I’ve stated. This is not to accuse those that are a part of Smith’s small nonprofit of any wrongdoing. That is except, for wondering why they have not checked Smith’s credentials or run background checks on her. Smith does hold a B.S. in Sociology from UW Madison but doesn’t have a master’s degree as she claims in her LinkedIn profile. That’s suspicious in itself and makes you wonder how she’s able to convince her small circle of followers of such falsehoods.

In the following video Smith claims to be a hobby farmer of sheep another false claim in order to gain donations and attention.

No one really knows if Smith actually has employment other than the nonprofit, her private foundation to be exact. Do donations go directly to her bank account? But we do know Smith has three convictions for OWI and the fourth arrest from 2018. Unethical behavior remains a persistent problem for Melissa Smith who continues to run a small nonprofit private foundation, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife, Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance, and Hunter’s For Wolves. Thankfully, it’s a small nonprofit, and not taken seriously by the scientific community.

The new freedom of expression brought by the Internet goes far beyond politics. People relate to each other in new ways, posing questions about how we should respond to people when all that we know about them is what we have learned through a medium that permits all kinds of anonymity and deception. ~Peter Singer

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