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Cecil County Animal Control: Buddy Group Begins $2.25M Contract; Carletti Fronted $ for Bid; Dog-less ‘Shelter’ Farms out Pets to PA, Homes

January 2, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

A Cecil Times SPECIAL REPORT

A Delaware group associated with Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian who almost single-handedly wrote the county’s new animal control ordinance, began its $2.25 million animal control contract with Cecil County with an open house at its animal-less ‘shelter’ on Appleton Road Wednesday. Virtually all the staff of the operation have ties to Carletti, who personally fronted a $40,000 letter of credit for the group to qualify it to bid, according to documents obtained by Cecil Times.

Other documents indicate that the outgoing Board of County Commissioners, in its final moments of existence before the shift to Charter government, suddenly doubled the duration of the contract with the Delaware group, A Buddy for Life, Inc., to three years—precisely the time frame of the group’s lease on the Appleton Road property, thus ensuring the group would not have to pay an unreimbursed $45,000 to its landlord. The Buddy group has no experience supervising employees and has never had its own shelter or handled animal control for local government.

Carletti was identified as the “staff veterinarian” for animal control by the Buddy group during a press conference held Wednesday at the group’s leased building at 1750 Appleton Road in Elkton. However, under questioning Carletti said she would not receive a daily or monthly retainer fee—as she had requested under an interim proposal that the county rejected last fall—but would be on call “24/7” to provide veterinary medical care to stray animals for the Buddy group.

Master of ceremonies for the unveiling was Richard Brooks, the Cecil County Director of Emergency Services, who was a key figure in the county staff review committee that urged the County Commissioners to give the contract to the Buddy group. He said that six animals currently under county care at a private kennel on Shady Beach Road under an interim animal control plan would be transferred to the Buddy group’s custody.

The Buddy group has no dog kennels of its own and those six animals will take up a majority of the space the Buddies have leased to house dogs in Cecil County—11 kennels at the private Rainwood Kennels on Hutton Road in Elkton, owned by Mary Thompson. (The new county animal law mandates that private boarding animals may not be co-housed with animal control strays, but some county officials say that Thompson will get around that rule by “separating” potentially vicious or diseased strays from her ongoing private kennel clients.) A lease between Thompson and the Buddy group specifies kennels will only be provided on a temporary basis, until 8/1/13, and the Buddies will pay her $15 a day per kennel.

Under the county contract, the county covers the costs of eight days of boarding for stray or lost animals.

However, a sign posted at the Buddy offices states that citizens who reclaim a lost pet will be charged a $25 per day fee, plus veterinary costs of shots or other services—apparently provided by Carletti. Under the new contract, the Buddy group can keep such “redemption” fees for its own purposes.

Other documents submitted to the county show that the Buddies have another “short term” arrangement with a Chester County, PA kennel, Vixen Hall Kennels in Oxford, PA. The documents did not specify how much the Buddies would pay that facility. At the press conference, Buddy representatives said they had a backup plan to lease space for 11 dogs at that out-of-state facility.

In contrast, the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA)—the former animal control contractor with the county for decades– owns its own shelter in Chesapeake City with 50 on-site dog kennels, and an open cat room, that local residents could visit to visually search for lost pets or seek animals to adopt.

Under the new contract with the county, signed on 11/30/12, the county will pay the Buddy group $60,000 a month for three years, plus $10,000 cash in up-front startup expense support, plus purchase and equipping of two animal control vans, estimated to cost a total of about $80,000. (The county will own the vans and lease them back to the Buddies for $1 a year.) All told, the pact will cost taxpayers about $2.25 million over three years.)

(In contrast, the county’s contract with the CCSPCA for the current Fiscal 2013 budget year was $624,000. The basic annual Buddy payments under the new contract amount to $720,000 a year, not including the add-ons under their new contract. Thus, the county is paying more money to house many fewer animals in potentially non-local locations.)

The Request for Proposals published by the county called for a contract duration of 16 months and initial versions of the contract between the county and the Buddy group provided for that term, with the possibility of future extensions on an annual basis. But at the last minute, the Three Amigos—Commissioners Diana Broomell (R-4), Michael Dunn (R-3) and now replaced James Mullin (R-1)– suddenly voted on 11/30/12 to turn the pact into an ironclad three-year deal. Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) opposed the extension, as did then Commissioner and now County Executive Tari Moore.

That step was taken without public explanation for the shift, other than Mullin and Broomell saying that the new group needed three years to establish itself. Hodge said giving a three-year deal to an inexperienced service provider with no kennel of its own was “inappropriate and irresponsible” and he questioned the cozy relationship between the vendor and “certain commissioners” that appeared to be tailoring the contract to meet the desires of the Buddies.

Documents obtained by Cecil Times suggest that there was another reason for the sudden shift to a three-year deal: bailing out the Buddies on their obligations to their landlord. Documents submitted to the county show that the Buddy group was obligated to a three-year lease term with its landlord for the Appleton Road property. So the sudden contract duration extension would cover the full term of the Buddy group’s financial liability to its landlord, who would in turn then get a three-year assurance of rental payments. The shift amounted to an additional $45,000 subsidy to the Buddies.

The landlord, F. Jeffrey Asti, wrote in a letter to the county that he had executed a lease with the Buddy group “for three years.” The lease specified that the Buddy facility was to be housed in a small building at the front of the property for up to eight months, and later they would move to a large warehouse-type building at the rear of the property for the duration of the three-year lease term. (The warehouse currently houses Appleton Trucks, which also fills most of the parking spaces on the property with various trucks and auto chassis and burned-out auto bodies.) A church, Divine Presence Fellowship, is also on the site, next door to the current Buddy “shelter.”

However, the front property was denied a needed zoning variance in December by the county’s Board of Appeals, which agreed with neighbors that a dog kennel at the site would be a nuisance, cause traffic problems and other issues in the nearby residential community. The warehouse at the rear of the property would not need a zoning variance.

Despite the loss of zoning approval for the front property, that is where the Buddies have now opened their “shelter,” including three small rooms where they plan to house up to 60 cats in open, cage-less surroundings, A tour on Wednesday showed the largest room had wooden shelves attached to the walls with blankets tossed over them, a closet-sized room with no heat but a portable heater in a corner, and a third closet-sized room used for storage but which the Buddies said would be cleared out for housing cats.

A county building permit, issued 12/28/12, was posted outside the building and stated permission had been granted for construction work for “office space to animal rescue.”

Eric Sennstrom, the county’s Planning and Zoning director who also served as a member of the county ‘review committee’ that recommended giving the contract to the Buddies, told Cecil Times that he thought it would be OK under zoning law to house up to 60 cats in the building because the zoning code only mentioned dog kennels. Although the new animal control ordinance specifies licensing and other rules for catteries, Sennstrom said his department only enforced the zoning code, not the animal ordinance. The Buddies will be in charge of enforcing the animal ordinance.

Meanwhile, other documents obtained by Cecil Times show that Carletti personally signed for a $40,000 “letter of credit” issued by Cecil Bank to support the Buddy group’s bid under the RFP’s requirements. Other documents show that Carletti is the legal resident agent for the Buddy group on its registration with the state to do business in Maryland.

Carletti’s money bailed out the Buddy group in the bidding process, since the group’s most recent filings as a non-profit organization with the federal Internal Revenue Service listed only about $6,000 in its bank account, with no employees, no facilities for cats and no dog kennels. Crystal Litteral is listed on the federal filings as the president and only officer of the Buddy group and Litteral alone signed the animal control contract with Cecil County and related documents.

But on Wednesday, Litteral was introduced as the “co-executive director” of the Buddy group, along with Jenn Callahan—a longtime personal friend and employee of Carletti—as another “co-executive director.” Litteral said that in the future Callahan would be listed on the group’s filings with the IRS as a “director” of the Buddy group. Callahan’s name is listed as a ‘witness’ on multiple documents filed in conjunction with the Buddy group’s bid for the animal control contract and she attended most meetings related to negotiations of the contract, sources said.

The Carletti ties were evident in other new principals of the group handling animal control. Heather Buckley was identified as an animal control officer to apprehend strays and enforce animal laws in the county. She said she previously worked as an unpaid “volunteer” at Carletti’s All Paws animal hospital. [UPDATE: Court records list Buckley as living at Carletti's Elkton home, and court records show Buckley has been involved with Carletti in litigation seeking to obtain custody of a child from its parents.]

Buckley said she had no experience or training as an animal control officer. “I’m training with Gerry,” she said, referring to Gerald Hawkins, a former Cecil County SPCA employee until last summer.

Hawkins, who has certification in animal control through a training course at Carroll County Community College that was paid for by the Cecil County SPCA, was identified as the Buddies “chief animal control officer.” During discussions of animal control in the past several months, he acted as an adviser to Commissioner Broomell, who on several occasions invited him to testify at commissioner worksessions.

Edie Crick was identified as a “volunteer” for administration for the Buddies. Crick served as what she called “an administrative assistant” for the former Animal Control Task Force appointed by the County Commissioners in 2009 to review the county’s animal laws. She was never officially appointed by the commissioners to the panel, but she said on Wednesday that she was named “administrative assistant”—taking notes at meetings– by remaining members of the task force. Most of the task force members left the panel in late 2010, after delivering a proposed ordinance that was put out to public hearing 2/1/11.

However, Carletti and Crick subsequently re-wrote that proposed ordinance for another year and a half, including multiple provisions that had been previously rejected by the broad-based original task force. The Carletti/Crick revisions were adopted by the usual Three Amigos majority vote of the county commissioners last summer, with Hodge and Moore voting no.

Crick said Wednesday that she was currently unemployed, after being laid off by Ashland in late November, but she said she did not anticipate her work with the Buddies would become a paid job.

Meanwhile, Callahan said that dogs who were still unclaimed at the end of the county-subsidized eight-day holding period would be transferred to “foster homes” in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. She said that Cecil County residents would not have to travel out of state to search for their lost pets but it would be “on us” to retrieve the animals and “bring them here” for families to be re-united with lost pets. She did not explain how the current “shelter”—which is not allowed by zoning law to house dogs—could provide such services.

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12 Responses to Cecil County Animal Control: Buddy Group Begins $2.25M Contract; Carletti Fronted $ for Bid; Dog-less ‘Shelter’ Farms out Pets to PA, Homes

  1. Deuteronomy on January 3, 2013 at 8:09 am

    What a scam by the Broomell-Carletti cabal. No facility, no equipment, no vehicles for retrieval of “pets”, an office used as a “cat house”, no “dog house”, etc. According to the contract they receive $60,000 per month beginning 1/1/2013, although they have no way to perform services under the contract.

    The new and improved county government should step in and CANCEL THIS SCAM ASAP. I’m sure that competent bidders would have submitted proposals if these terms had been offered. Shame on the SMIPKIN “Fiscal Conservative Team.”

    • Dubious on January 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      I agree that there is some sort of a “scam” going on with this contract/agreement. Why are there all these “private” meetings that do not include the public? What led up to the change in the contract to extend it for the duration of the lease? I attended a recent Cecil Council meeting and there was reference to Ms. Broomell and Carletti being friends.

      Also, Ms. Broomell wants to hold meetings that exclude the public because she “is offended” by the statements made by her salary payers. This is America, Ms. Broomell, the public is your BOSS. You can not hide from us and spend our money. The old saying, “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours,” seems to be the example here with the Broomell private meetings and Dr. Carletti contract. The problem is that Ms. Broomell is using my/your money to do the scratching.

      [If] Ms. Broomell was revealing information to Dr. Carletti during the bidding, I am sure the ethics committee will investigate. Why would the County government, especially with this challenged economy, put up the money for a business to start? That is what Cecil County government that is run by these Council people is allowing. Why wouldn’t the new Buddy for Life organization just rent the old SPCA facility that is “ready-made” for a county animal control facility? Common sense seems to be left out when someone else gets the bill (taxpayers gets the bill.)

      EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cecil County SPCA/Eastern Shore Animal League continues to operate its own animal rescue and adoption programs, as well as a low-cost medical clinic for pets at its Chesapeake City shelter. Contrary to rumors put out by some Buddy allies, the SPCA is very much alive and still serving the animals in Cecil County. Its facility is not up for rent to other groups.

  2. Too Much Government on January 3, 2013 at 10:18 am

    What disorder! They will have foster homes and kennels in Pa.– and they will be crossing the state line without health certificates that the animal ordinance requires? Just another way for Carletti to line her pockets, I guess– she put that requirement into the law and now she will get paid to do the certificates?

    So, let me get this straight – if I am missing a dog, it could be housed in Pa and it would have to be brought to MD for identification, crossing the state line twice – so two health certificates? What if the dog is already up to date on vaccines, are they going to vaccinate it again before its holding time is over and it’s taken to Pa.?

    This is all a lawsuit waiting to happen. In addition, this entire mess is costing the taxpayers much more money than they were willing to invest in the SPCA. Tari Moore this is in your court now, let’s see if you have the guts needed to unravel this.

    • Rick O'Shea on January 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      It only gets better. Carletti gets a line of credit (IOU) from Cecil Bank which will be repaid from the first county payment of $60K for not providing services. Cecil Bank, the former employer of Broomell’s sworn enemy ex-Commissioner Brian L. The new government should pull the plug now. Waste Fraud and Abuse. Broomell’s special interests. The SPCA should file suit. I’ll contribute.

  3. Mike R on January 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Whoa – isn’t this a kick in the behind of the taxpayers. Carletti writes the ordinance, the three amigos approve the ordinance, Carletti fronts the letter of credit, her entire veterinary practice staff and her personal “friends” are hired to run animal control and Carletti herself is the 24/7 on call vet.

    They give Buddy a 3 yr. contract to assure they are not in default of their lease agreement. In addition they hire the pompous and arrogant Hawkins as the Chief Officer. Wow – what a scam. I feel sorry for anyone that loses their poor dog, probably never to see it again. What a way for Buddy for Life, Inc to make extra cash after the redemption period is over.

    Tari Moore needs to show leadership and stop this nonsense now.

    • Ron Lobos on January 4, 2013 at 9:12 am

      Just wondering, is it possible to file an ethics violation law suit against Broomell, Dunn and Mullin for abuse of government (on behalf of the taxpayers) in Cecil County? What those three did just before charter government took over is outrageous and should be investigated.

      Were the final decisions made by these three under the guise of emergency votes really an emergency, or was it an attempt to bully through special interests of the elected officials that were getting ready to lose their monopoly of power.

      Just because someone is elected by the people doesn’t give them the same rights as a monarchy. They should be held accountable for deliberate decisions that were not necessarily in the best interests of the people. This type of abusive behavior should not be tolerated by anybody.

    • I know the truth on January 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Mike R.
      I could not have said it any better than that! At least you have the common sense to see what is really going on here.

  4. Laura Hansen on January 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Does anyone NOT find it strange that Mindy Carletti is putting SO much into this yet says “she’s getting nothing in return” but originally snuck in there that she wanted a retainer fee. I’m no rocket scientist, BUT I also know that people don’t just do things for free or expect nothing in return.

    Mindy and her minions have something huge up their sleeves!…. Something must be done! Because when all is said and done this scandal is going to be huge! I can feel it. And guess what, the county is going to be left picking up the pieces and explaining to the public and those whom have fought against Mindy and her Buddies. It’s going to be bad.

    Wake up people! WAKE up! Think logically. Would you waste money, time and resources just out of the goodness of your heart?…. Oh I’m rubbing my palms together anticipating the big Hoe down! Woo hoo! And the truth shall set you free!

  5. cats on January 3, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    This is what Mike Dunn posted to the Cecil county Animal lovers list!!
    Mike Dunn
    Very important FYI— Applications are now being taken for the Animal Care and Control Oversight Committee. The deadline to submit an application form to the County Executive’s Office is Friday, January 18, 2013 by 4:30 p.m. Anyone who applies please cc to me as well— as I believe there will be a concerted effort to stack the deck here with Schwerzler and Demming’s cronies.

  6. cats on January 4, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I think maybe Mr. Dunn is right. All of us that are against this farce should apply– at least we would have a hand at what goes on with this new circus.

  7. Animal Lover on January 6, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Why are you people so against Dr. Carletti? She has done a wonderful job neutering/spaying the feral cats in this county. It seems all of this bickering is simply political childishness. All I care about is the care of the animals, and the SPCA’s record of euthanasia is sickening. This new group truly cares about the animals, and that is all that should really matter.

    • Too Much Government on January 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

      This may be your interpretation of bickering but this is all about ethics and taxpayers money as well as the care of animals. Carletti puts on a good show; she should be an actress instead of a cat veterinarian. This group doesn’t care anymore about animals, it’s all about the money.

      …Get educated before you make such ridiculous statements. It is FACT that the SPCA did not euthanize animals unless they were so viscious and aggresssive that they could not be safely adopted to a family, or they were seriously injured and in pain, and nothing could be done for them. You really need to catch up on the facts before you go making statements that are lies about the SPCA. Some of you really need to get a life!

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