Cecil County SPCA Withdraws Bid for Animal Control; Cites “Tainted” Process

September 27, 2012

The Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA) has withdrawn its bid to resume animal control services to the Cecil County government, citing what the group’s lawyer called a “tainted” county bidding process.

The CCSPCA’s withdrawal leaves one bidder, A Buddy for Life, Inc., a Delaware-based volunteer dog rescue with no shelter, no experience in animal control services, and no employees. However, the group is believed to be planning to sub-contract with other individuals and entities to share in the workload and money received from the county.

A review panel, consisting of senior county officials, met with representatives of the Buddy group Thursday morning to hear an oral presentation and discuss areas of concern. The group is expected to submit a final proposal based upon the discussion, according to County Administrator Al Wein and County Attorney Norman Wilson. They also said that Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), who had earlier said she wanted to sit in on the review team’s meeting with bidders, did not attend the session.

The review panel had also been slated to meet with the CCSPCA on Thursday but that session was cancelled after Michael J. Halter, the organization’s volunteer attorney, delivered a letter to the county government Wednesday afternoon.

In his brief letter, Halter said that the board of the CCSPCA felt that the “process” under which bids had been handled was not “fair and impartial” and that “the outcome of the process will be tainted.”

Concerns have been raised, since the 9/14/12 Request for Proposals (RFP) deadline to submit bids, that the Three Amigos faction of the County Commissioners has sought to change the county’s new animal control ordinance, which takes effect 10/1/12, to remove ‘cats’ from the law. At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, Commissioners Tari Moore (R-2) and Robert Hodge (R-5) voiced objections that the move would interfere with the pending RFP bidding and review process by removing a major cost area that bidders should have included in their calculations.

[SEE Cecil Times article here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/09/cecil-county-commish-catfight-questions-raised-about-removing-cats-from-law-while-animnal-control-bids-pending/ ]

The origin of the no cats proposal has been a mystery, but under repeated questioning by Moore on Tuesday, Commissioner James Mullin (R-1) was identified as having given the proposal to Wein. But Mullin stated that “I didn’t put the whole document together,” without further identifying who else was involved.

Hodge has questioned whether the newly proposed removal of cats from the ordinance reflected the agenda of Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian and cat rescue operator who re-wrote the animal ordinance after the rest of a citizens’ task force resigned upon completion of a different law that was put out to public hearing in early 2011. In July of this year, the commissioners adopted the Carletti-written ordinance but added in cat regulations, primarily at the insistence of Hodge. (However, Hodge and Moore voted against final passage of the ordinance.)

On Tuesday, Hodge and Moore questioned whether the removal of the cats language would negate the RFP process and whether the entire process should be put out for bid again.

Implicit in the issue is the unanswered question of whether one bidder might have had advance knowledge or conversations that cat regulations would likely be removed from the ordinance and whether a bid might have been adjusted accordingly.

Meanwhile, Carletti has provided veterinarian services to the Buddy group. It is not known with certainty if she is participating in the group’s bid to the county. However, she did submit a previous bid to the county for interim veterinary services but it was rejected as too costly since she demanded payment for being on-call even if she rendered no actual services.

The county’s procurement process provides options for bidders who feel there are improprieties or irregularities in the competition to file a “protest” which is then reviewed by a special panel. Such protests can come at various stages of the bidding and bid review process, including before a bid is awarded.

A review of the RFP and state databases indicates that the Buddy organization flunked one of the basic requirements of the RFP: a license to do business in the state of Maryland held at the time of the bid. The state database of business licenses showed no such license held by the Buddy group.

Protests may also question the credentials and abilities of a rival bidder. Questions could have been raised in light of Delaware court filings showing two non-payment of debt judgment filings against a principal of the Buddy group.

However, the CCSPCA decided to drop out of the bidding process rather than fight administratively or in court because “it just wasn’t worth the hassle,” Halter told Cecil Times. The outcome appeared pre-ordained toward the other bidder, he said, and even if the CCSPCA did emerge as the contractor, “Carletti and the others would try to make it a living hell,” especially since her backers are expected to try to pack an Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission to be appointed by the county.

Halter said the CCSPCA was not giving up forever on resuming the animal control services it has provided to the county for over two decades and “we might bid next year” if the climate in Elkton is different.

Apart from questions about county government processes, the “hassle” factor has taken on a personal dimension. In the past few days individual supporters of the rival bidder have taken to the Internet and email lists of animal groups to post personal attacks on Jeanne Deeming, the executive director of the CCSPCA, including posting her personal email address. One posting viewed by Cecil Times included four-letter curse words from a county resident supporting a rival bidder. [UPDATE: In addition, some supporters of the Buddy group have emailed threats of violence against Deeming. She told Cecil Times that police authorities were unwilling to pursue actions against the cyber-threats.]

Responding to the withdrawal of the CCSPCA from the bidding process, Hodge told Cecil Times he was “very disappointed that the most qualified provider is walking away.”

At their next Tuesday morning worksession, the commissioners will consider adding outside experts to the bid review panel, Hodge said. He has proposed including the director of the Carroll County animal shelter who previously participated in the original task force that proposed a new animal ordinance, which was then re-written by Carletti after that task force disbanded. “We need someone with some expertise in animal control issues,” Hodge said.

The commissioners are also slated to review, again, cat revisions to the ordinance at that worksession, according to the agenda for the meeting.

Deeming was reported to be out of the office at the CCSPCA shelter Thursday and did not respond to messages left on her cell phone.

Cecil Times has also called Commissioners Moore and Broomell and will update this report upon their response.

[Disclosure: The editor of Cecil Times has adopted several pets from the CCSPCA and in the past served as an unpaid volunteer board member.]

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12 Responses to Cecil County SPCA Withdraws Bid for Animal Control; Cites “Tainted” Process

  1. BobbyG on September 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    More corruption accusations; that makes it even more imperative that the Attorney General’s office be called in to help with Cecil county politics.

  2. Felix on September 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I want to know more about the involvement of Commissioners Broomell and Mullin in the entire process. Looks to me like they are working to advance special interests. I see them ignoring the “transparency, accountability and due diligence” they claim to champion.

  3. Topcat on September 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Exactly where is Buddy for Life going to house these animals? You do realize there is only so much subcontracting they can do as per the RFP, but hey that seemed to not matter when they didn’t meet the most basic requirements of the RFP.

    And they complained when the interim plan used a private kennel. Who is going to be the one that inspects kennels under the law? I suggest you don’t send any volunteers to my property or they will be removed by the sheriff.

    So if I lose my dog I have to go to someone’s house to look for him and in what state? I guess they are going to turn all these foster homes into hoarders now but that won’t matter as the Fox is now guarding the hen house and it is “all for the animals?”

    Carletti should not be allowed to profit from this. She bullied her way into writing the laws and now she is going to benefit from them. Please don’t sit here and tell me she does all this for free because she is so caring. She is as money driven as are all her cronies. This wasn’t about the animals ; this was a plain and simple vendetta as evidenced by their comments and ridiculous actions. The drama on their Facebook page is almost as good as most daytime soap operas.

    When this collapses, will anyone in Cecil County government admit their mistake? I bet NOT! Well, citizens we might as well take the money wasted on this and burn it to keep warm this winter because the whole thing just went down a big sinkhole.

  4. Dora on September 27, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    I am just a tax payer who has been watching this drama unfold. I love animals also, but this bashing is uncalled for. For one the SPCA has its faults and I am not pointing fingers at anyone. Nor do I care to elaborate on the faults I have with the SPCA. You would’nt post them anyway. I am not familiar with the other organization but have been looking at their Facebook page as well as the animal lovers page. I did see where an e-mail address was posted. However, it said something about needed dogs? Is the SPCA bringing in dogs to our county from other states? I sure hope not seems we have enough of our own who need homes. If 600 Pennsylvania Ave. put in for the bid you would say they were unqualified. I seriously doubt they would put in for a bid without intentions of providing a place of shelter within the county. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
    Also the SPCA gave up the contract correct? Then they want it back, now they don’t again, I see this as not reliable business. Competition is all around us. So why is it so hard to believe that another group might be interested? This is the same way that the SPCA evolved “people who loved animals created it”. Actually rich people donated the land who loved animals if I am correct. The SPCA uses Cecil Times to exploit this Buddy group and they use web sites/Facebook. The only difference is here coments are waiting for approval before they appear. I hope the issue is resolved soon and may the most reliable/best choice for the animals prosper in the end. Then and only then will the animals truly have a voice.

  5. Alice in Wonderland on September 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    As an outsider looking in I am now starting to reconsider my decision to retire to Cecil County.

    Property is purchased, house is packed and the Chapter 209 arrives.

    How does this affect me? I am a cat breeder, dog and horse owner.

    It is appalling what is going on with the County Commissioners and the cast of characters on this stage. Leaks on RFP’s, who is tied to who, the only qualifying agent excuses themselves because the process seems tainted and their director is sent harassing e-mails from the opposition.

    The opposition, Buddy for Life has no employees, kennels, trucks for pick up, licenses or training to take over animal control and according to Al Wein they qualify.

    To any person on the outside looking in this fiasco is better than a soap opera. Unfortunately all of this will not stop the real problem that happens everywhere. Mom and pop that have 2 or 3 unspay females running around the farm having two or three litters a year that go on to do the same. You want the animals to have a voice and stop being abused? Start at the root of the real problem.

    I think I’ll put my move on hold and wait to see if there is anyone with any sense left at all in Cecil County.

  6. Heather Martin on September 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I think all of the bidders should pull together and shake hands and pull off something so unexpected for the county and the animals. What a plan to set a good example to everyone, especially the younger generation like myself. When in high school, I tried to get a job at the CCSPCA – yet they were not hiring and would not take volunteers. So, I have worked in another county during college. I see points from both sides. Carletti. no doubt is a cat hoarder and this is not good. Deeming needs to step it up and show she cares more about the county animals then her show dogs. Callahan aka Nicole has the right touch and experience, however she needs to drop Carletti. Again, if only everyone would just knock off the drama and just do what is in the best interest for the animals! And a big thank you to Mrs. Schwerzler for being so non-bias with this issue, really admire your work.

    • fido on September 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Big fan of Cecil Times and really have an interest in this for Cecil County. I think you may have an idea here. Why not let them all get together and work out and share the responsibility with running animal control and the shelter? It is possible? Why not have Deeming call the meeting with Buddy for Life staff and local citizens? You have nothing to lose.

  7. dog gone tired on September 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    There will be no fair bidding then with only one bidder Buddy for Life!They are not qualified nor even in the state of Maryland. They have no physical location.They have no experience for animal control . Maybe for rescue but not for an entire county of lost stray hurt animals. We need experienced animal workers . We DESERVE better than this thrown together patchwork of the blind leading the blind. When will the commissioners and citizens see that a 35 page manifesto of stringent rules needs to be repealed ? A massive storm continues to grow and there will be victims rather than survivors. Concerned citizens want their pets safe and healthy not swept away by people looking to control our animals rather than to care for them.

  8. R Ricardo on September 28, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I believe that Commissioners Broomell and Mullin owe the citizens some answers on the RFP process. Broomell is too close to Carletti. She also literally brings to the table her favorite dog catcher. Mullin works with unnamed parties on a modification of the ordinance, one that would serve Carletti’s interests. The lone remaining bidder has no way to provide the services. All right Broomell and Mullin, start splainin.

  9. F Gaylord Moody III on September 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

    This is the second bid process that became a convoluted mess due to political jiggering by elected officials. The bid for tax sale advertisements was the responsibility of the treasurer, but a commissioner interfered by making contrived allegations against a bidder new to the process. Now this bid process is being derailed, but in this case the bidder who is new to the process seems to be given a real shot at the deal, in spite of allegedly not having basic credentials to be a bonifide bidder.

    Through this process, the county employees are being stage managed to appease elected officials who have a track record of terminating employment of perceived “enemies”. It is tempting to call for a criminal investigation, but the proper time to prosecute will be after the election.

    However, given the time it takes to conduct a criminal investigation and prosecute criminals, I think voters should wake up and solve the problem themselves. Throw out Papa Simpkin’s puppets and then throw out Papa Smipkin.

    • R Ricardo on September 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Doesn’t unethical behavior come under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission?

  10. concernedcitizen on October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    To keep the soap opera going we have Commissioner Mullin and Commissioner Broomell admitting that they did not even read the final version of Chapter 209 when they voted on it! Commissioner Broomell was whining that ‘the intent’ has always been to exclude cats. Well, ma’am, if you don’t read what you vote for, maybe you should not serve as commissioner.

    And yes, Commissioner Hodge: there is a perception out there that the county is trying to make the ordinance fit the proposal (by Buddy For Life).

    Is it even legal to change the ordinance after it took effect, because at least 2 commissioners discovered they voted for something they don’t like and because the lone bidder seems to have problems with the stipulations of the bid (as in they get a chance to submit a ‘final proposal’ by tomorrow)? Inquiring kitties want to know.

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