The “George Santos” of Wisconsin wolf advocacy is still at it.

Animal advocacy is about protecting the vulnerable, but what happens when an unethical person takes advantage of those saving animals? The following quote fits this situation.  “Sometimes we want to believe something so badly that we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of.” ― Aaron B. Powell. 

Screenshot of Melissa Smith’s false claim to hold a Ph.D.

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. And she is still at it and making George Santos look like a saint.

As Wisconsin wolves were being delisted in 2011, Smith arrived without experience or scientific degrees. Smith created Stop the Wisconsin Wolf Hunts, now Called Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, and began soliciting donations. Wolf advocates began to follow Smith blindly. They believed her because she could talk a good talk. These followers didn’t seem to check 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 embellishing her work history and educational achievements and 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 academic 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 have a Ph.D. degree. Did Smith do the right thing and resign as head of the small nonprofit like Chang did? No, and she is still the head of the nonprofit. She’s at the helm and running a small nonprofit soliciting donations.

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. Ultimately, the Senator’s office caught wind of Smith’s false claim and sent her a letter asking her 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 was elected a Dane County Wisconsin Conservation Congress Representative by perpetuating that lie about working with a prominent WI Senator. Smith made all these claims when Wisconsin’s wolves were mandated to be hunted.  Wolves were taken off the Endangered Species List in 2011, and Wisconsin held trophy wolf hunts, even allowing dogs to track and trail wolves. Smith was leading advocates and misrepresenting her credentials to gain more followers.

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 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.” Like Smith, Chang also runs a nonprofit. Nonprofits solicit the public for donations.

In 2019, Smith claimed to the press in an article stating she’s a former wolf tracker. I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They said 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 ecology or wolf biology background. Smith talks a good talk. She was, again, duping the public about her academic experience and credentials.

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.

The most recent OWI arrest,  Melissa L. Smith, was arrested on April 28, 2023, for OWI, her fourth OWI arrest in 12 years, in Waupaca County, Wisconsin. Before this most recent arrest, she was arrested in 2018; the trial was delayed then the pandemic hit, pushing it back to January 2022. (just one year before this latest arrest). In Wisconsin, a fourth OWI is considered a felony, and if convicted, she faces fines and prison time.

In the 2018 arrest, public records show, 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.

Aren’t we all for offenders 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.

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 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 highly 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 from 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: 82-5403668 if anyone wants to check or confirm what I’ve stated. This is not to accuse those that are part of Smith’s small nonprofit of any wrongdoing, except to wonder 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 and makes you wonder how she can convince her small circle of followers of such falsehoods.

No one knows if Smith has employment besides the nonprofit, her private foundation. Do donations go directly to her bank account? But we know Melissa L. Smith was arrested on April 28, 2023, for OWI, her fourth OWI arrest in 12 years, in Waupaca County, Wisconsin. Unethical behavior remains a persistent problem for Melissa Smith, who runs 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.

Smith is smart enough to “parrot” scientific facts to appear creditable.  I’ll leave you to read the following Quote from Pete Singer because it fits here.

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

%d bloggers like this: