Saying something better came along, the latest executive director of the Humane Society of Utah quit his job before he officially started it, more than two months after his predecessor left citing professional differences with the society president.

Craig Cottle's decision to turn down the job left the society some $2,000 poorer and has its president, local attorney Craig Cook, talking about a lawsuit.About seven weeks ago, members of the society's board of directors thought they had found the right person to replace Lynn Tyler, whose two-year contract was not renewed when it expired in January. Both Tyler and Cook acknowledged then that they could not agree on how much involvement the society's board of directors should have in day-to-day operations.

Cottle, an MBA candidate at Utah State University with extensive business experience, accepted the job but asked for time to complete the classroom work he needed for his degree, Cook said.

The society directors agreed to hold the job open until March 21. But on March 18, the Friday before he was supposed to start, Cottle called and said he'd been offered a better job and was no longer interested in working for the society, Cook said.

That call left the society out some $2,000 spent to reserve a place for Cottle at a weeklong management seminar in Minnesota next month, to print 6,000 copies of a society newsletter announcing his selection and to mail 100 invitations to an April 5 society reception to welcome the new executive director.

Craig, an attorney, said he wants Cottle to repay the society the money spent in anticipation of his starting as scheduled. He said he was considering taking the issue to court if necessary.

"I'm not out for blood but, on the other hand, we have suffered because of his breach of contract," Craig said. No written contract had been signed by Cottle, but Craig said he had an oral agreement with the society.

Cottle, in a telephone interview, said that he felt bad about turning down the job but was not responsible for the money spent.

"I didn't ask them to do it," Cottle said. He said much of the expense could be recouped if a new executive director is hired quickly.

Cottle would not name the bank he went to work for earlier this week but confirmed he would make more money there than he would have been paid as the society's executive director.

"It was just the age-old thing that something better came along," he said.

There was apparently some concern over whether Cottle really wanted the job, which paid about 40 percent less than he had been earning as a financial manager. Craig declined to name the salary offered, saying it could affect negotiations with other applicants.

"We certainly grilled him throughly about his commitment. We didn't think he'd stay forever, but he seemed enthusiastic," Craig said. "It just hit us completely by surprise."

Craig said the society has approached the second choice for the position and expect an answer from him this week. Some 170 people applied for the job, and 30 were interviewed before the two top candidates were chosen.

Cottle said a local job recruiter has volunteered to help the society fill the position as a favor to him.