Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dearborn County Animal Control Meeting Minutes 30 June 2009

Dearborn County Animal Control Meeting June 30, 2009

Members Present
Steve Hubbard, DVM, President
Sandy Carley, Vice President
Penny Schroder, Secretary
Bill Ullrich
Ralph Thompson
J. R. Holdcraft
Robbin Pelfrey
Doug Taylor
David Schneider

Two visitors, John D. Gay, County Attorney pro tem, and Cary Pickens, County Auditor, were in attendance at the meeting.

The meeting was called to order at 7:33 P.M.

The minutes from the previous meeting, April 9, 2009, were approved and the approval sheet was signed.

Steve said the main item on the agenda was to clarify the responsibilities of the Animal Control Board. Penny had a handout of the county ordinance, Chapter 90.50 which was the section of the ordinance in question.

Mr. Gay said he didn’t know exactly what the Board was looking for, and stated that it wasn’t the best written ordinance he had ever seen, but it seems to him that the ACB has several functions. The only part of the chapter with any autonomy is the first two sections of paragraph A which states (1) Establish rules and regulations concerning the operation of the Animal Shelter; (2) Establish standards for the humane treatment and control of domestic animals in the county. Everything else here is recommendations to the County Commissioners who actually employ and are responsible for the operation of the “dog shelter”.

Mr. Gay said that Chapter 90.50, (A) (7), makes it clear that the ACB is an advisory committee. He said the control of the shelter rests with the County Commissioners.

None of the ACB members had a copy of 90.50, (A) (7). Ralph said the ordinance had to be approved by the commissioners. Robbin said the copy she had was reviewed by then county attorney, Lisa deHart Lehner and approved by the commissioners. At that time Karen Shell was the county commissioner who sat on the ACB. Cary asked if anyone had a signed copy of the ordinance.

Penny said that although many county departments didn’t have current copies of the ordinance, the question at hand was to address Chapter 90.50, (A) (1) – (3) which appears to be the same in all copies of the ordinance.

Mr. Gay read his copy of Chapter 90.50, (A) (7). The intent of this chapter is that the Animal Control Commission is to be an advisory body to formulate and adopt policies for the humane treatment of domestic animals in the county. His copy is dated April 5, 2004.

Ralph said that the ACB is to work with the commissioners, not the shelter.

Cary asked, do you want me to just do my (rules?) in this real quick? I’m in this because I’m the Auditor and the EEO coordinator, and we had a potential sexual harassment, hostile work environment filed. As soon as that happens it triggers an automatic investigation. It went through and cost the county 8500 bucks. I think it was some “B.S.” stuff that could have been talked out. So the reason I’m out there is to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And I’m out there trying to be a team builder, trying to get the folks to write a mission statement of what that animal control board and that facility are really there for. And then when they’re done with that I want them to write a mission statement as to where they want to be in six months. How they actually want to run that thing and the means to get it done. I’m also going to put together a chart to line out a chain of command. That being the fulltime employ takes it to the Director and the Director takes it to the Commissioners. The Commissioners can ask the advice of the ACB. “There should be no communication between the animal shelter and the ACB because they don’t have a damn thing to say about it.”

Robbin asked why we have a board. Cary said to advise the Commissioners. Cary said “I don’t know crap about animal control board, and I’m just out there in the
(south ward?) just trying to learn what’s going on.” Cary said he’s trying to find out what’s going on out there.

Penny asked if the ACB had been going in the wrong direction all of these years. Bill said it wasn’t the wrong direction , but a lack of specific direction and everybody has been acting in good faith to get the job done. Numerous times it’s lack of communication with the proper people to be communicated with and as far as the county employees they’re under the umbrella of the Commissioners and it’s the Council’s responsibility to get them funded, and that’s the extent of it. Beyond that, and thank God for the volunteer help, which includes the P.A.W.S. members right here on this board helping out and providing suggestions for direction which is great. We need that to continue. It was a matter of who do I turn to and who do I talk to. Ralph said what gets me is he said, she said, and no body said. There are too many chiefs and too few Indians.

Sandy said there are always two sides to every story. Cary said what he wants to get through to the employees out there is some communication skills so that when they’re told something to do, to get feedback, not just walk away. There is still the question of what still needs to be done. It’s another team building tool to try to get some coherency out there instead of back biting every damn time you turn around. When you walk in out there it’s cold as hell. There’s people not talking and whatever.

Steve had a question for the attorney. One night after hours, he encountered two (shelter) county employees who were waiting on a friend. We had just hired a new shelter director. I walked over and said, hey, how are things going? How’s the new director doing? They looked at me and said we can’t talk to you. We were told that if we discuss director or her job there will be serious retribution. And they were scared s-------, both of them. They were told in a meeting by the Director if they talked to anyone there would be serious retribution. Now what’s that mean to you?

Ralph said first off that’s a lie. I was in that meeting and that’s not what was said. Mr. Gay said I think people are afraid to talk; I think communication….. In order to do a job, you need to be informed about what’s going on. You can’t make decisions in a vacuum. At the same time, Ralph can’t sit here and make a decision for the County Commissioners. No one of you acting alone can make a decision for the ACB. Whatever decisions you make should run to the County Commissioners for approval. They’re the ones who hire, the county’s the one who pay the employees out there. They’re the ones who are ultimately responsible for the performance of their job and how they do their duties. It is my opinion to restrict someone’s freedom of speech to give their opinion on the performance of someone. But I don’t know if it’s the correct way to address the situation. But, there again, you’re trying to find out facts about what’s going on and how you address an issue, if there is an issue. Too many court rooms have heard too many stories about the same event and it sounds totally different I hate to sit here and say based on these guy’s reactions to your innocent question what took place at that meeting. They may have been half listening, they may have heard part of it and they have gotten somebody else’s report of it.

Cary said, Steve, on that one, I’m just going to divulge some of the stuff that went on at those interviews, there were some folks who were threatened by her, and some folks who didn’t take it as a threat at all. So, it’s a mixed audience again. Some folks perceived it as a threat, some folks nothing. In other words, if you’ve got a complaint, take it to the boss.

Steve said, well, that’s the problem. Cary said, well, you’re beating a dead horse because that situation has been removed from the shelter; that’s past history. We’re trying to get things going so we can have a smooth running machine out there.

Robbin said, Cary, we had a smooth operation out there…Cary interrupted with, how many directors have you had out there in the past six years; it’s not a smooth operation. Robbin said Cheryl was there for five years before she got burned out. But now, we’ve hit a brick wall.

Steve said it is the past, but unfortunately, some people don’t feel that way. Ann Averil, the past director, went back to the shelter the day after she was given the opportunity to resign, rather than be terminated, and asked some of the employees to recant their statements.

Steve said to Ralph that whatever your relationship was to Annie or Ann, whatever you want to call her, there has been a sincere feeling among a lot of people that because of her termination that now there is retribution. For a lack of better words, that someone is going to pay for this. Cary said, and that’s why I’m out there, Steve. “I’m not out there to crucify anybody, I’m just out there to get the damn thing straightened out. If I have to play hardball once in a while, hey, I’ll do it. I’m not out there with that intent to do that.”

Steve said to Cary, what people basically feel is that they need protection from the commissioner (Ralph). That they feel threatened by him. People went to H.R. because they didn’t feel comfortable going to him because Ann told them she could do anything she wanted because Ralph gave her permission to do anything she wanted. When someone didn’t do what she wanted, there was hell to pay. Someone told me that they had a discussion with the commissioner (Ralph), and sixteen days later they were written up based on this discussion. Ralph said he didn’t know what it was and he didn’t see the write up.

Mr. Gay said they were loosing sight of one thing; “that anyone who said anything about how insulated this director was from her inappropriate activities and the commissioner (Ralph) were obviously not true. She’s gone.” Also if anyone feels that retribution is being imposed upon them, they should also be looking at their activities, and is their behavior appropriate. There’s got to be a director hired at some time that isn’t subjective to internal strife.

Penny said that before Ann was hired, there was progress at the shelter. Everyone was working together as a team. Many improvements were made. As soon as Ann was asked to resign, things have been moving backwards. Many bad feelings exist, and we don’t want that. Before Ann, policies and procedures were put in place, and they were working to everyone’s benefit, including the animals. All the ACB wants is to continue with these practices. Cary said that was fine, but it then needed to be presented to the commissioners at a public meeting for approval. Once the commissioners approve any, or all, of the recommendation, they should take it to the Shelter Director for implementation. Penny said that no commissioner had ever told the ACB that they were handling their responsibilities incorrectly.

Sandy said that sometimes people who have an animal issue with the shelter are referred by the shelter to attend an ACB meeting for a hearing. Is this right or wrong? Mr. Gay said that if it concerns animal control policy, it’s okay. Bill said that the matter is usually the correct interpretation of an ordinance. The ACB hears the person’s concerns and explains the ordinance that pertains to them. Mr. Gay said that is how issues of this kind should be resolved. However, if the ordinance really doesn’t fit the situation, then a recommendation should be made to take it to the commissioners at a public meeting.

Penny asked if the policies and procedures that the ACB has previously passed should now go to the commissioners for approval. Mr. Gay said yes.

Cary said it was the fault of the commissioners for not handling this situation sooner. Ralph said he had told this board many times that they were an advisory board only. Bill confirmed this. Penny said everyone heard the statement many times. Bill said that what the ACB did worked because nobody said anything different. It’s a tough adjustment. Penny said it’s not tough; it’s just that no one ever took the time to say anything.

Bill said it was hoped that by hiring Ann Averil, who had no previous interaction with the shelter, the operation of the shelter would progress. “Instead of making things better, it made things a hell of a lot worse.”

Penny asked if the ACB could still review applications for the position of Animal Control Director, and make recommendations to the commissioners as it states in the ordinance. Cary said the commissioners have the final decision. Penny said what she asked was could the ACB still do this. Cary said yes.
Cary said that in listening to the testimony that was made against the last director; he thinks if you hire somebody who is working there right now, you’ll be right back in the same situation in a month or two, because there’s hostility between all of the folks at that facility. Don’t even consider anyone who has an application who works there now. Find somebody stone cold new and go from there.

Sandy reminded everyone that previously David had suggested getting into the pool of qualified people at other facilities and animal welfare organizations.

David said that he is the newest ACB member, and asked, what have we been doing that is outside of policy? He said we discuss and pass policy and procedure that is then passed on to the other commissioners by Ralph who is a commissioner and a member of the ACB. David said he thought all along that the commissioner sitting on the ACB was doing this. Cary said an ACB representative needs to go before the commissioners at a public meeting.

David said it’s not like we’re moving mountains here; what we’re doing is relatively simple. David said he understands that we’re an advisory board, but everyone here is passionate and dedicated about what we’re doing or we wouldn’t be here. However, when you’re told over and over (by Ralph) that I’m the boss and I make the decisions; it’s not going to happen unless it happens through me, it’s belittling. David said he is here only because of his love for animals; no political gain. He said he cares about the shelter. He wants to see it become and operate like a finely tuned machine. He thinks if everyone involved, ACB, commissioners, county, stay on course, it can be achieved. Before this most recent situation, everything was moving forward.

Doug said he thinks the ACB and the commissioners need to move ahead with their duties as they are stated. Penny said she agrees but is dismayed because the county has never before taken the time to recognize that any of them even exist.

Mr. Gay said he thinks it was the intention of the commissioners to hand off as much of the responsibility as possible to the ACB. The commissioners meet twice a month and they’re busy; they work a lot of hours outside of those meetings. They don’t want to spend their time with animal control matters. Cary said he thinks someone from the ACB should attend all commissioners’ meetings to make sure issues are being stated and handled as the ACB intended.

Mr. Gay thinks Ralph was also happy with the way the ACB and the shelter were operating, and that he moved back in to take control reluctantly. Penny said everyone was satisfied with the progress being made, but now progress has digressed. Cary said it’s time to move forward; it’s past history. Penny said it’s absolutely past history. We want to move forward too.

Ralph said moving forward is recognizing what the shelter management is now. There are multiple people going out and giving direction and moving money around the shelter accounts illegally. Sandy asked Ralph to explain. Ralph said there is no person on this board who can unilaterally move money from account to account. Robbin said she did not move any money. She said she called Jessica because there was budget money left and brought to her attention that that money had been coded wrong. Robbin was told she was correct and it would be taken care of. Ralph said Jessica wasn’t permitted to do that either. Ralph said he should have been contacted and he would have directed the matter to council. Bill said that would have taken forever. Penny said that we weren’t aware of all of this until tonight and it’s all in the past and over. Cary said he had given Jessica permission to make those transfers, but tonight the buck stops here.

Bill said it was the logical thing to do at the time. Sandy reminded everyone that Robbin has helped prepare the shelter budget several times, and she is very knowledgeable of the accounts. Sandy said Robbin helped Cheryl prepare the 2007 and 2008 budgets. They were brought to the ACB for discussion and Steve Hubbard presented one of the budgets to council. Again, it’s in the past.

Ralph said in the past colleagues were good about bring things to him, but now some are going around him in retaliation. Several people have basically told him they will not do what they have been told to do. They have been written up for insubordination. Sandy said Lisa Harrison has done that in the past; was it her. Ralph said it wasn’t her and he wouldn’t mention any names.

Steve said our job isn’t to tell shelter employees what to do. Ralph said correct. But at the same time, you talk about the chain of command. We were told that if one of us were to go to the shelter and give an employ direction on what to do, they were to call the Sheriff. Cary said that is not true. They will be asked to leave; if they become hostile the sheriff is to be called. That is to be done as a last resort. Steve said he can’t see anyone going out there doing that. He thinks it’s strange that the shelter employees would even be told something like that. Ralph said someone had commented on a shelter situation to a shelter employee and that employee felt threatened. Bill said that person realized it was out of line and apologized to the employee. Mr. Gay said all direction should come from the Shelter Director or the Commissioners.

David said he doesn’t want this advisory board to feel belittled because of their efforts. We’re here voluntarily. He thinks Steve’s question was an honest, legitimate one. Before Ann was hired, he visited the shelter for fifteen minutes. He was bombarded with complaints and comments from shelter employees. He told them he was only there to visit. He wants to see the shelter improve as everyone else does. He doesn’t want to see all the ACB has done be in vain. As far as he is concerned, progress has been made through the ACB.

Steve asked for the shelter update. Ralph said that he had given Steve and Sandy copies of the new shelter plans and, as of yet, hadn’t heard back from either of them. Anyone else who would like a copy should let him know. The Commissioners have reviewed the plans. They have approved a 95% plan. This excludes electrical and mechanical which has been rejected. Ralph has been working with the Park Board concerning a variance, and plans to go before the BZA on July 15th. We had hoped to break ground in June, obviously, that isn’t going to happen. He had discussed with Sandy that if it was necessary to relocate, it would cost about $2000.00. He is trying to keep P.A.W.S. from paying an additional $2000.00. There is also a farm lease on the land until 2010. He thinks they are close to a resolution on that. It concerns thirty feet of fence. They are trying to have the Park Board release it to the new shelter project.

Sandy confirmed with Ralph that this is a perimeter fence, and should not interfere with the biding process. Ralph said that is correct. Ralph said the farmer who has the farm lease has crops growing on the land, but he thinks a solution is close. Any final comments on the plans need to be directed to him or one of the other commissioners. The bid date is set for August 3, 2009 at 3:00 P.M. The probable award date would be August 17, 2009. Bid notification will be July 15, 2009.

Sandy said the farmer involved had called her. She didn’t know how he got her number, but she directed him to Art Wentzel. The farmer called her back and said things were being worked out.

Sandy asked, based on the Resolution that was prepared and signed last year, when will the ACB become involved. Ralph said you have drawings to review, and he tried to discuss the drawings with Becky, but she was unavailable. The ACB is supposed to review the drawings and make comments. Ralph said he got the impression that the ACB wasn’t interested in seeing the drawings so he gave copies to Steve and Sandy. Ralph said if anyone else wants the drawings, he will have them made.

Sandy asked how involved it was that the mechanical and electrical drawings had not yet been approved. Ralph said his set of the drawings didn’t include the heating and cooling, electrical, and mechanical. Insulation and ventilation were not adequate on his drawings. It is now in compliance with Indiana code.

Sandy said she is concerned that the changes and additions will result in higher construction costs; a hard figure for cost isn’t yet available. Ralph said he asked for an estimate, but was told they couldn’t yet give him one. Sandy said a lot of bids will probably be received. Ralph agreed that the present economy should play a part.

Ralph said the remainder of P.A.W.S.’s money would need to be turned over when it goes out for bid. Sandy said she needed a more accurate figure. Ralph said when the bids come in a better figure will be available. On August 3rd, there will be hard figures.
On this day there will be a public meeting to open the bids. Sandy asked Cary if he would have a part in the bid process; he said no, he will just be a bean counter. Also, August 18th is just a tentative date for awarding a bid. Cary said all of the bids could be rejected on August 18th. Ralph said from what he has been seeing, bids are coming in lower than in the past.

John Gay and Cary Pickens left the meeting.

Steve left the meeting for a few minutes so Sandy continued on with the presiding of the meeting.

There was no end of the month shelter report because we were still in the month in question.

Sandy asked for any old business. Penny asked about the SPOT training that Tara Rogers attended. There was shelter procedure that was to be adopted based on this training and the ACB was supposed to get a report on this. Ralph said the chain of command is to be followed. Tara just presented him with the report. Penny asked if someone would give this report to the ACB at the next meeting on August 13th. Ralph said he would give the report.

Ralph said there have been a few times that employees have been asked to do things and they have refused to do them. They have been told they will be written up if they don’t comply. Penny just wanted to confirm that the report would be given at the next meeting so that it could be discussed, and then recommendations made to the commissioners for approval.

Penny asked Ralph to explain the email he had sent to the ACB concerning Greendale’s ordinance. Ralph said Greendale has its own animal control ordinance. Because of that the county doesn’t have the authority to handle this type of situation in Greendale. Greendale has passed a resolution to allow the county to enforce the County Ordinance in Greendale. This is currently being enforced through a verbal agreement with Doug Hedrick, Mayor of Greendale.

Sandy asked for the status of the grant request to Dearborn Community Foundation for shelter vehicles. Ralph said the deadline was missed. Ralph said he still had all of the paperwork and would try to meet the next deadline.

Sandy said the next two things that had been discussed were Pet Point and adoption fees. Ralph said the information on Pet Point was incomplete. The contract was sent out, but it turned out to be more complicated than originally thought. It needs to be looked at again. Ralph said he has sent out surveys to rescues about raising pulls, not adoptions but pulls. Adoption fees do need to be increased because we’re lower than anywhere else. Sandy reminded everyone of the handout she had given to everyone a couple of meetings ago. It shows all of the surrounding shelters’ fees. A decision needs to be made soon because after the ACB makes a decision, it needs to proceed as a change to the ordinance, and then follow those channels.

Steve returned to the meeting. Sandy told him we had moved on in his absence.

Steve asked what Becky Foster’s status was; is she back to work? Yes, but not as before; currently she is only working on rescues. Ralph said there was some misunderstanding on the last Rescue Waggin rescue. Ralph was told by Marlene of the Rescue Waggin that Tara could handle it, but then got back with him saying that only Becky Foster was trained to handle the process. Ralph said they have moved forward to make it happen.

Sandy said she has heard that it is being said that P.A.W.S. is overstepping their boundaries. She said she wants everyone to understand that P.A.W.S. came into the picture years ago when the county shelter was getting very bad press about euthanizing 1400 animals in a years’ time. Robbin was the founder of P.A.W.S. With the help of P.A.W.S. through the years the euthanasia rate has dropped drastically, and they pay for the shelter animals’ medical needs and spays and neuters. See the handout.

Sandy said that P.A.W.S. volunteers have given countless hours and monies to help the county animals. Also the community has entrusted P.A.W.S. with their money to continue these practices and to build a new shelter. Bill said he didn’t think anyone here would argue that point. Sandy said she just wanted everyone to know what P.A.W.S. does and will continue to do.

David said that he and Ralph had attempted to arrange some training for the shelter employees through a program headed by Sheriff Lusby, but due to bad timing it wasn’t able to happen; the schedule wouldn’t accommodate it. This is something that can come about in the future, and should be pursued for the shelter employees. David said he also hoped we could get back to addressing the need for uniforms for employees.

Ralph said they have already gone through the money budgeted for food and supplies as of May. He is trying to estimate budget costs for 2010 with the new shelter also in mind. He said the county can’t afford to feed a new shelter filled with animals.

The ACB needs to proceed with finding a new director. New avenues should be searched in order to find those best qualified for the position. Ralph reminded everyone again that the ACB could only recommend someone to the commissioners; the commissioners make the final decision.

Penny asked if the commissioners had to give approval for the ACB to make a request for applications for the shelter director’s job. Ralph said no. We should make a list of avenues to pursue for this position.

David said when the ACO’s complete the training mentioned above; a fund needs to be established so that the citations they write will be directed to that fund.

Sandy made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Bill seconded the motion and all were in favor. The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 P.M.

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