Cecil County, Town Cops Enlisted in Animal Control; Two Amigos Flunk Reading Test
Cecil County Sheriffâs deputies and Elkton town police have been enlisted into the countyâs âinterimâ animal control plan, responding to calls to the countyâs 911 center and referrals from the County Commissionersâ office, according to logs presented to the commissioners on Tuesday.
In addition, County Commissioners James Mullin (R-1) and Diana Broomell (R-4) complained loudly about âblogsâ reports on the submission of two responses to a Request for Proposal by two vendors seeking to provide long-term animal control services to the county. (We think they meant Cecil Times, but their comments didnât match either the time frame or actual content of our 9/17/12 published report. Weâll provide a reading comprehension and Journalism 101 tutorial below.)
The logsâfrom the county administration building, the 911 call center, and the countyâs Health Departmentâcovered about a week or so portion of the period since the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA) terminated its animal control contract with the county on 8/30/12. The county administrative office log showed 20 calls with animal issues through 9/6/12; the 911 center listed 24 calls from 9/4 through 9/11; and the health department, which oversees animal bite complaints, reported 15 calls it dealt with through 9/8.
During that brief period, the logs show that the Sheriffâs department was dispatched by the 911 center to 6 incidents, Elkton police were dispatched to 3 incidents, Maryland State Police were dispatched to 2 incidents, and the state Department of Natural Resources was summoned in 3 cases. The logs did not show how much time and specific police manpower was diverted from crime-fighting duties to handle the animal calls.
Emergency Services director Richard Brooks told the commissioners at a worksession on Tuesday that the county has used its pest exterminator/trapper contractor to transport two dogs to a private kennel, with which the county has a separate interim contractâone Lab dog that initially was thought to be in medical distress, but wasnât, and a dog that Sheriffâs Deputies thought posed a danger to the public.
Most of the callers to the county commissioners were advised, according to the logs, that there was nothing that could be done for their problemâsuch as stray dogs running at large, animal abuse or neglect cases, animal noise problems, found dogs, lost dogs, etc. The county is only responding to âemergencyâ situations under its interim animal control plan. The county logs state that many of the callers were referred to ârescueâ groups.
Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the CCSPCA, told Cecil Times that the groupâs phones have been âringing off the hookâ and staff has had to explain to callers that since it no longer has the animal control contract with the county, the organization cannot provide the services it previously did. Many callers were referred by the 911 center or the county offices, she said, but other people were unaware of the current situation and simply turned first to the CCSPCA.
âOne of the most difficult situations for us is that we cannot go out and pick up strays and bring them into our shelter for care and medical treatment,â Deeming said. But without the official contract, the CCSPCA– or any animal ârescueâ group– could be legally liable if they took in a stray, and adopted it out to a new family, but then the original owners showed up demanding their pet back. The contract with the county specifies holding periods for the official animal control contractor, she noted, after which the pets become legally available for adoption.
During the commissionersâ worksession, before Brooks had much chance to speak, Commissioner Broomell brought up to the witness table Gerald Hawkins, a former CCSPCA animal control officer whom she has frequently mentioned as consulting with her on animal issues. (Hawkins put in a bid to provide animal capture services, at the rate of $10,000 a month to be paid by the county, during the âinterimâ period, as the Cecil Times has reported based on documents obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act. County officials rejected his proposal.)
Under prodding from Broomell, Hawkins recited sections of state law, which generally only specify that cats must have rabies shots. Including regulation of cats in the countyâs animal control ordinance âwould be very costly,â Hawkins said, as Broomell smiled.
The new animal control ordinance passed several months ago by the usual 3-2 Three Amigos coalition vote (including Broomell) covered cats for the first time, especially with regard to nuisance animals and odors. But a newly proposed revision, whose authorship is unclear, last week proposed deleting references to and regulation of cats.
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) who supported inclusion of cats in the ordinance, has pointed out that Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian who operates a cat ârescue,â opposes regulation of cats. Carletti took over control of the re-write of the animal ordinance after all other members of a citizen task force had resigned. However, Hodge ultimately voted against the new animal ordinance, saying it was unenforceable, costly and too burdensome on county residents.
A Carletti-linked group, A Buddy for Life, Inc.âa Delaware animal rescue group with no dog shelter of its own, no paid employees and no facilities for catsâhas applied for the long-term animal control contract. The CCSPCA has also applied, according to the public announcement of the names of the bidders last Friday in the county purchasing office.
Cecil Times was present at that announcement, as were several county senior staff employees. The bid packets were only displayed in sealed envelopes and county purchasing staff followed normal protocol to record the time of the submissions and announce the names of the bidders. However, no financial or other data or information was disclosed.
Nevertheless, Mullin and Broomell were apparently upset about what Mullin called âblogsâ reports on the RFP responses. He claimed that the RFP bids were âsplashed on the blogsâ on âFriday afternoon at 1: 30 p.m.â and he indicated he wanted to launch an investigation into âwho did what in the purchasing department.â
Broomell intoned that she thought the independence and confidentiality of the bidding process had been compromised. After the meeting, Cecil Times asked her what the issue was and she briefly responded, âdetailsâ were reported.
Although the Maryland reportersâ âshieldâ law protects news reporters from disclosing confidential sources, Cecil Times is more than happy to stop Mullinâs witch hunt in its tracks.
No, Mullin, no one in the county purchasing office, and no county employees, gave Cecil Times any confidential information. Our brief presence in that office, for the Friday 9/14/12 public announcement of the names of bidders, was also witnessed by several county employees. Our published report the following Monday, 9/17/12, did not include any bid numbers or confidential data from anyone.
Our reportâREAD IT HERE: [ http://ceciltimes.com/2012/09/cecil-county-gets-2-animal-control-bids-cecil-spca-and-de-rescue-tied-to-carletti-author-of-new-animal-ordiance/ ] relied upon public documents, websites, Facebook postings, past county government proceedings, federal IRS filings, interviews and common sense. Thatâs Journalism 101. We do independent reporting, not stenography of what some commissioners want us to write.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Hodge observed at the worksession that there was nothing in county law or procurement rules to prevent a bidder from exercising their First Amendment rights to speak to the public or press.
However, Commissioner Tari Moore (R-5) declared, âIâm concerned that those details of those RFPâs are out thereâ and said such information could âviolate the entire process.â
At one point in the worksession, Broomell demanded that she should be involved in the review of the qualifications of the two bidders, along with a temporary committee of senior county employees that has been overseeing the interim plan. Hodge said that the reviews of the RFP responses should be âindependentâ and that the county commissioners would have âanother bite of the appleâ when it came time to actually decide which vendor should get the contract.
Eventually, Broomell backed down slightly, saying she would only insist that she be allowed to âwatch the processâ and âsit in and observeâ the review of the proposed animal control contractors. No other commissioners responded to her revised demand.
[Disclosure: The editor of Cecil Times has adopted several pets from the SPCA and in the past served as an unpaid volunteer board member.]