Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October 7, 2014 No Motion and No Vote at County Commission Public Services Committee on Humane Society Contract

Some background regarding the MH Humane Society:

1) The city and county provide the majority of funding for the MH Humane Society--just over $130,000 from each government

2) The Humane Society was asleep at the wheel for the past several years during which their non-profit status was lost and only recently re-established, approximately $50,000 was lost through alleged embezzlement by an employee, insurance coverage was not maintained and a large payout to an employee who was purportedly injured on the job had to be made from operating funds, a new "Director" (with close connections to former county commissioner/current Humane Society member Larry Baker) was quickly hired with poor results as an employee and disastrous results as the public face of the Humane Society; a new election for board members was totally botched and new ballots were sent out recently; and it goes on and on.

A few months ago, County Mayor Bill Brittain along with County Attorney Chris Capps and County Commissioner Doe Jarvis met with City Mayor Danny Thomas, City Administrator Tony Cox, and City Attorney Dick Jessee to iron out a contract with the Humane Society.

This contract was brought to the county commission in August by Mayor Brittain. At that meeting, Mayor Brittain and Attorney Capps proposed one change to the contract. The contract was approved with the change and the Humane Society was given until November 1 to approve the contract.

Shortly after presenting and getting approval by commission of a proposed City/County/Humane Society contract, Mayor Brittain--who is a member of the Humane Society Board--began working with the Humane Society on a contract that is different in many respects from the one that he brought to county commission in August and asked commissioners to approve.

Yesterday, Mayor Brittain sought approval from the Public Services Committee of his 2nd Humane Society contract.

There were comments and extended discussion at and after the meeting about the Humane Society and the current situation.

The frustration of commissioners is evident.

When Public Services Chairman Herbert Harville asked if there was a motion to approve Brittain's newest Humane Society contract, there was silence. Finally, Harville declared that there was no motion and he moved on to the next item.

When all this mess started out, it seemed like it was primarily a financial/bookkeeping issue and that the treasurer should step down and there should be additional oversight of the Humane Society finances.

As more information has emerged and as I have attended Humane Society "board" meetings and have stepped in to foster animals as well, it is evident that the problems go way beyond just treasurer/bookkeeping issues.

The Humane Society was started decades ago by dedicated individuals who worked with care and concern for the animals uppermost. Some of those individuals are still on the Board and are good people who didn't intend for this mess to happen. They assumed and trusted that everything was being done correctly, but they didn't verify.

The mess did happen, and it hasn't been cleaned up. In fact, it has been made worse by the hiring of the current "director" months ago with continuing problems with shelter operations and then improper attempts by the existing Board to influence an election for board members by sending out a ballot declaring that certain candidates on the ballot were ineligible to serve on the board.

After several of these individuals provided proof of their Humane Society membership and eligibility, the votes from the first election were never counted and a new ballot prepared. The new ballots are to be counted on October 9.

In all of this, Diane Fox, current Humane Society secretary, showed the most common sense at the September 23 meeting of the Humane Society Board.

When the contract that County Mayor Bill Brittain, City Mayor Danny Thomas, and Humane Society Attorney Scott Reams had drafted was presented to the Board, Fox voted "no."

Her reasoning and her statement was that any contract decision should be made by the Humane Society Board which would be elected and known by October 9.  Common sense.

 It appears that there is common sense on the part of commissioners as well to wait for the election results on the Humane Society Board. And with the City as a party to the contract, why are all these contracts being drafted by certain officials and attorneys but no contract has been presented to or even discussed at a City Council meeting or work session?

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