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Cecil County Commish Accept “Buddy” Group for Animal Control; Cecil SPCA Files Lawsuit to Block Contract, Re-open Bids

November 13, 2012
By Nancy Schwerzler

The Cecil County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to accept a review panel’s recommendation to declare A Buddy for Life, a Delaware volunteer group, as qualified to provide animal control services to the county government and proceed with final contract negotiations. But the Cecil County SPCA filed a lawsuit seeking to block award of a contract to the Buddy group and to re-open the bidding process.

Even as the county sought to proceed with steps to give county money to the Buddy group– which has no shelter of its own, no employees and no track record of providing animal control services– basic information and details about the venture and its principals were still shrouded in secrecy Tuesday.

County Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5), who raised the only questions about the Buddy group during the commissioners’ worksession, asked for a copy of a “business plan” that the group was asked to submit to the county. After the meeting, County Administrator Al Wein refused to disclose that plan to the press and said he would “explain” to Hodge why even he could not have a copy.

However, it was learned independently that the Buddy group is trying to obtain zoning variances to put an animal shelter in a rented warehouse, which is not equipped with animal kennels or related infrastructure, on Appleton Road– a short distance away from a controversial commercial dog kennel on the same road that has triggered community protests at several public hearings. An application for a zoning variance is slated to be heard by the county Board of Appeals on 11/27/12. [SEE application here: http://www.ccgov.org/uploads/PlanningAndZoning/Meetings/boa/2012/Spex_3625.PDF ]

The county’s request for bids specified that a contractor should have a shelter facility with appropriate zoning at the time of its September application for the animal control contract.

It was also unclear how the Buddy group would pay for needed improvements at the warehouse—since the non-profit Buddies group reported on its most recent filings with the federal Internal Revenue Service for 2011 that it only had a cash balance of $1,053—or if they intended to use county dollars provided under an animal control contract to construct kennels, fenced dog runs and other needed infrastructure and acquire supplies such as computers and animal tracking software.

In addition, Wein said at Tuesday’s worksession that there was a proposed “interim” kennel option to house stray animals until the Buddy group gets its zoning variance—assuming that it does. But, in an independent interview, Cecil Times learned that the owner of that publically unnamed ‘interim’ facility was having serious second thoughts about providing such services, which would only provide kennels for 11 dogs—far less than the usually needed number of kennels for animal control facilities.

And that kennel operator said she was not given pertinent information—such as the new county animal control ordinance barring co-housing of private boarding animals and county “stray” animal housing. If she had been so informed, she said that would have made her decide against offering temporary services.

During the worksession, Wein outlined the history of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process and enumerated four meetings between the Buddy group and a review panel consisting of senior county employees, including Wein, in the past month. He then asked the commissioners to authorize the panel “to move forward with negotiation of a contract” with the group.

A written document presented to the commissioners sought their decision to approve “the award of RFP 13-03 animal care and control services as recommended.” County Commissioners’ Board President James Mullin (R-1) sought to avoid a recorded vote, saying that the decision could be made by a “consensus” of the commissioners.

Hodge said he would “pass” on the “consensus” and no objections were heard from the other present commissioners so Mullin deemed the proposal as passed. (Commissioner Tari Moore, R-2, who was recently elected as County Executive, was absent, vacationing to recuperate from the arduous campaign and to plan her future administration which will begin 12/3/12.) So it was the usual Three Amigos—Mullin and Commissioners Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3)– who were counted by Mullin as being in favor of the Buddy group.

There was no discussion during the worksession of the lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning, by Michael Halter, the volunteer attorney for the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA), which has provided animal control services to the county as a private contractor for over two decades. However, Halter said he had advised county attorney Norman Wilson in advance of the filing and provided copies of the legal documents to the county administration Tuesday morning.

In its lawsuit, the CCSPCA challenged the RFP and bidding process as being biased in favor of the Buddy group. The CCSPCA made similar allegations in September, when it withdrew its own bid in response to the RFP, with Halter saying at the time that the bidding and RFP process was “tainted.” He said some county commissioners were revising the new animal ordinance retroactively so as to reduce cat services costs to the Buddy group that had advance information of pending ordinance changes. [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/09/cecil-county-spca-withdraws-bid-for-animal-control-cites-tainted-process/ ]

On Tuesday, the CCSPCA sought a Circuit Court “temporary restraining order” and “permanent injunctive relief” to bar an award of the animal control services contract at this time. The group’s attorney claimed there had been “persistent and continued lack of fair and equitable dealings with the CCSPCA” by the Cecil County Commissioners. The suit also claimed that several commissioners (Mullin and Broomell) had admitted they did not exercise due diligence by failing to read the new county animal control ordinance before they voted to approve it.

The legal action also asserts that the Buddy group did not have a business license to operate in Maryland, as required by the RFP.

Meanwhile, Mary Thompson, owner of Rainwood Kennels in Elkton, told Cecil Times that she had been approached to provide “interim” kennel housing to help out while the Buddy group tried to get its zoning revisions approved for a longer term rental kennel.

“I was only trying to help when they asked me. I wanted to do whatever I could to help the animals,” Thompson said. She offered 11 dog kennels on a temporary basis, but she said no one told her that the new animal control ordinance would require her to give up her private pet boarding operations if she accepted animal control dogs.

Under the new ordinance, Section 209-703K, “At no time will stray animals be housed with boarded animals—except during a declared emergency or disaster at the request of state or county emergency officials.”

“No! I obviously can’t do that,” she said in an interview. She said her private pet boarding clients, as well as space she leases to a dog groomer and a dog trainer, make up the bulk of her business. She said she would not give up her private boarding operations to provide temporary help to the Buddy group, even though her heart ached to provide whatever help she could to homeless animals in the county.

The push to give an animal control contract to the Buddy group comes in the final weeks of the county’s commissioner form of government before the 12/3/12 inauguration of charter government, with a powerful county executive and a less potent County Council to replace the current five-member board of county commissioners. The Three Amigoes faction of the commissioners has been consistently opposed to any support for, or county receipt of help from, the CCSPCA, including the spurning of an offer for help from the CCSPCA to assist animals during the recent Superstorm Sandy, according to informed sources.

All Three Amigoes have longstanding political ties to Del. Michael Smigiel, R-36, who has been an avowed enemy of the CCSPCA for over a decade, ever since the shelter took into custody ill and dead animals owned by a Perryville pet shop for which Smigiel was legal counsel.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the 11 temporary kennels suggested by the Buddy group and an unknown number of kennels in the currently open warehouse on Appleton Road, the CCSPCA owns an 11 acre site in Chesapeake City, with 57 state inspected and licensed on-site kennels for dogs, an open “cat room” with an outdoor enclosed play area for cats, as well as an on-site fully licensed veterinary hospital and a staff veterinarian, according to past comments to Cecil Times by Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the CCSPCA. The shelter also has two vans equipped with fortified cages for transport of dangerous animals; several quarantine areas for sick or dangerous animals, and computers and special software to track lost or stray animals so owners may readily find them.

The CCSPCA also has the only state-licensed crematorium in the county for environmentally-approved disposal of deceased animal remains and has state environmental agency approval for “discharge” permits for removal of animal waste. The currently vacant warehouse proposed for a shelter by the Buddy group does not show possession of state environmental approval for discharge permits, according to a search of state databases.

[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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17 Responses to Cecil County Commish Accept “Buddy” Group for Animal Control; Cecil SPCA Files Lawsuit to Block Contract, Re-open Bids

  1. steve douglas on November 14, 2012 at 5:30 am

    The articles on this matter that i have read seem to be very biased.im under the impression you are leading some sort of which hunt

    • Rick O'Shea on November 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

      “Facts are stubborn things.” The facts in this case clearly show that A Buddy For Life is NOT qualified to provide animal control services to the county, no matter what the review panel says. Fact: the CCSPCA is the ONLY facility in Cecil County qualified to provide the needed services.

      Fact: Delegate Smigiel waged a war on CCSPCA and his “evidence” was proven to be false. Fact: Broomell, Dunn and Mullin are Smigiel cronies. Fact: Broomell is a friend of Dr. Carletti, who ended up writing the final version of the Animal Control Ordinance after constant input from Broomell. Fact: Dr. Carletti is associated with A Buddy For Life.

      Fact: The county erred in thinking they could dictate terms to a private vendor (CCSPCA). Fact: Buddy For Life does not have any type of facility in Cecil County, period. Would the county approve any other business to provide any other service if they were incapable of providing the specific service?

      • Russ on November 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm

        Fact: The Commissioners have spent more time on dogs and cats than infrastructure, jobs, cost cutting and the “secret” County drug epidemic. Seeing how they have screwed this up so badly, maybe it’s a good thing they have not tried to “fix” the relevant issues that we face.

      • steve douglas on November 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm

        Fact: the ccspca withdrew thier bid for the animal control contract .

      • RDCC on November 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

        Rick O’Shea-”Fact” your “facts” are merely OPINIONS-you need to learn the difference.

        The only “fact” you have cited is that indeed A Buddy for Life does not have a facility, but why would they? No rescue in their right mind would go out and get the facility PRIOR to being awarded the contract. Wise up! Once they know they have the contract, they will need to obtain the proper facility, kennels and everything else needed to run the animal control contract correctly. Just because the CCSPCA has had the market on the contract previously DOES NOT mean that no one else will ever be able to provide animal control services. Let’s not forget, the CCSPCA has left this county in a bind, now they want to continue having our animals suffer? This is an injustice to the taxpayers in the county and most importantly, the animals…

        • Rick O'Shea on November 15, 2012 at 9:10 am

          My “facts” are factual. Please take time to review them and the record. Then show where I am wrong.

        • Too Much Government on November 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

          Let’s really get the facts straight. The county commissioners are the ones that left this county in a bind. CCSPCA was more than willing to work with the county until the name calling started by the 3 Amigos and the sucking up to Carletti and her minions. Are you too blind to see what is happening here?

      • Read Between The Whines on November 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm

        Rick, if the SPCA didn’t back out of the bidding process you think we would seriously be dealing with ABFL? It’s BECAUSE the SPCA left them as the only vendors we are stuck with a possibly inadequate contract. If the SPCA hadn’t retracted their bid, we could very well have a successful contract with them right now. I agree ABFL is not a good choice but FACT: THEY ARE NOW THE ONLY CHOICE.

        • Rick O'Shea on November 15, 2012 at 9:26 am

          The SPCA withdrew their bid because the process unfairly penalized them for responding to the original RFP while the criteria were being constantly changed after the fact. The fair thing would be for the county to adopt an ordinance and THEN ask for bids to operate in accordance with specific requirements. ABFL will not be the only choice if vendors are offered a fair process.

          • Feline Friend on November 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

            You said it correctly, Rick. The SPCA spoke out about the rigged process. There is no way the current 3 amigo gang would ever allow the SPCA to do animal control and they have made that very clear. Do you stay in the game and be forced to play with your hands tied behind your back, when the referee also moves the goal post closer for the other guys? No, you appeal to the higher authorities, which is the courts.

    • Topcat on November 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      First, its Witch hunt, not “which.” But I’m not surprised by the mis-spelling….

      All I heard at the last public meeting was your side standing there with your hand out wanting money. You don’t want to work with any other group as everyone else is wrong according to you and your way is the only way….

      Buddy has not met the requirements of the RFP but now there is a cover up…. If the Buddy group was so competent then why isn’t their proposal posted online like previous proposals and why is it not okay for a commissioner to see the proposal if it’s all up to par?

      Buddy didn’t meet the OBVIOUS requirements in the RFP that we can see and I hope that the court makes them release the information so we can decide for ourselves…l.

      Has Buddy filed with the State to solicit in Maryland for contributions? Let’s see the business license that they needed. Did they post the bond or get a letter of credit for 5% of their bid price? I find it hard to believe they did either and the fact they could have had a lower price than the CCSPCA with the RFP requiring it to “include and cover the furnishing of all equipment, materials and labor requisite and proper and the providing of all necessary machinery, tools, apparatus and means for performing the work, and described and shown in the plans and specifications”.

      If they did submit a lower bid then the CCSPCA then they aren’t planning on furnishing much in the way of equipment, labor or tools since the substantial part of their bid, and the county money, would have to go to furnish such items that the CCSPCA already has.

      Lets see the proposal so we can end this guessing … You do realize now that the precedent has been set that any other vendor for county projects should get a do over on their RFP if they didn’t meet the requirements– or is it only Buddy who gets the free mulligan.
      Inquiring minds would like to know.

      • Rick O'Shea on November 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

        The 3 Amigo vote for this charade was a vote to continue the farcial Animal Control Services Interim Plan until A Buddy For Life can build a facility which would allow them to meet the requirements of the RFP. Shame on them.

    • Feline Friend on November 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Halloween is over so maybe witches become “whichs” in your world. The only bias I see is your gang pumping up your ‘friends’ numbers on your Facebook group by adding people who didn’t sign up themselves for it and probably don’t even know their name is listed as members of your group. Just look at the “added by Nicole” under the names. I know several people who do not agree with your group but your people put their names in there. You can’t even be honest about who is in your group and agrees with you.

  2. fido on November 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

    This is a disgrace, people. Who would put these ideas into motion? What is the purpose? What about the animals? Very disappointed in this county!

    • Too Much Government on November 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      The same people who have been flaming this process since Robert Hodge sent back the ordinance — the one that went to public hearing in February, 2011– to the Animal Control Task Force of one, ie, Mindy Carletti and her unappointed minion/aide. Let us see the real requirement for commercial and hobby kennels. Where are the appendices and applications mentioned in the Animal control Ordinance? The forms themselves are enough to blow your mind and certainly if they had been made available to the astute citizens of Cecil county, many more people would have shown up at the hearings and protested the ludacracy of this ordinance.

      Yes, the animal are extremely important, but we are losing our constitutional rights. These appendices or applications and inspection forms as mentioned but not included in the ordinance should be posted on the county website for everyone to see. Someone should insist that they be posted, it is public record. Where’s the transparency?

      • Topcat on November 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

        Yes let’s see these new rules. How exactly are they going to enforce them when they have never been voted on? Is this a new program for Cecil county– you write open-ended laws and let the bidder make it up as they go.

        I haven’t seen any of them and adding them without the commissioners voting or a public hearing begs for a class action lawsuit with Buddy as a defendant. Anyone want to start on this ?

        • concernedcitizen on November 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm

          I will happily chip in for such a law suit.
          It’s not just about this specific bid, but a matter of principle!

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