‘Buddy” Group, with $2.2 Million Cecil County Animal Control Deal, and Allies Push Legal Steps Against Critics, Oversight Panel

October 16, 2013

A CECIL TIMES Special Report—First in a Series

A Buddy for Life, a Delaware animal rescue group with a more than $2.2 million Cecil County government contract for animal control, has hired a lawyer to threaten an unpaid volunteer who complained to county officials about conditions for animals housed at the group’s rented shelter. And a county oversight panel tasked with reviewing animal laws and the Buddies’ performance has been riddled with dissension, as Buddy allies attacked the panel’s chairwoman, including legal threats.

The Buddies got a three-year contract in the final moments of the old county Board of Commissioners’ existence on 11/30/12, after the “Three Amigos” political majority of the commissioners approved the award and suddenly extended the duration– despite the fact that the published “request for proposal” only specified an 18-month contract for animal control services. At the time, the Buddy group had no shelter, no vehicles, no experience supervising a public animal control service and no employees.

But the county gave the group $10,000 in start-up cash and purchased two pickup trucks (at a cost of over $65,000) plus special “caps” for the trucks, while also paying the Buddies $60,000 a month. The group is now renting kennels owned by a former county Circuit Court Judge and his wife, and until last month was also using county funds to pay rent on a vacant property that was banned from housing dogs under zoning law. Financial reports show the group has been consistently running a cash surplus over its expenses.

Now, more than nine months after the group began its contract in January, questions have been raised about its operations by multiple volunteers working without pay to help care for animals. And the chair of the oversight panel– who has queried financial reports filed by the group, suggested inclusion of cats in licensing rules and sought review of regulatory burdens imposed on kennel operators — has been attacked personally by Buddy supporters.

Indeed, a key associate of the Buddy group filed a complaint with the county’s ethics commission accusing Madelyn Yelton, the oversight panel chairwoman, of “conflict of interest” because she owns an animal boarding kennel, according to several informed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Yelton is a former financial executive, who holds a Masters of Business Administration degree.

At the time the panel members were selected, with one member from each of the five County Council Districts, appointees were considered on the basis of representation of various “stakeholders” in animal issues and the panel also includes a horse rescuer, a veterinarian, a cat rescuer, and the chair of the science faculty at Cecil College who also trains seeing-eye dogs.

Meanwhile, on 9/15/13, Mindy Carletti– a Perryville veterinarian intimately tied to the Buddies’ operation and who personally re-wrote most of the county’s animal ordinance over a nearly two year period after a broad-based task force submitted a vastly different proposal– complained on her Facebook wall that the Buddy group only had five volunteers.

But four volunteers with the Buddies attended a meeting at the county administration building last week on 10/10/13, with county Director of Administration Al Wein and Jason Allison, the county attorney, to complain about conditions, especially among cats, at the Buddy’s rented shelter space in Elkton.

The group, led by Tammy Pollard, a volunteer with the Buddy group since early June and a longtime client of Carletti’s private veterinary practice, had requested a meeting with County Executive Tari Moore but she was out of town on vacation.

Pollard first went public with her concerns several days earlier, with 10/6/13 posts on her Facebook wall.

After the meeting, Pollard told Cecil Times that the volunteers presented pictures they had taken of what they said were ill cats and described what they said were unsanitary conditions, finding dead animals lying on the floor, many dogs crated in small portable wire cages, lack of medications, and other problems, including ringworm skin conditions that they said could be transmitted to human visitors.

Pollard also said she had purchased at her own expense food, bedding and other items for the animals because when she went to the facility on weekends bowls were empty and no food was available. She said cats were given cardboard boxes to lie in and as many as 30 dogs were kept in small wire crates in an upstairs area, without the outdoor access of larger, fixed kennels occupied by other dogs on the ground floor.

Wein told Cecil Times that before the meeting with the volunteers—and several days after Pollard posted her concerns and pictures of animals online– he and county emergency services director Richard Brooks and county planning director Eric Sennstrom went to inspect the facilities that the Buddies rent at Rainwood Kennels in Elkton.

He said it appeared to be clean, although smelly, and that it was very crowded with animals. He confirmed that dogs were being held in wire crates in an upstairs area.

Asked if the officials had brought a veterinarian along on their visit, he said no. County Councilor Alan McCarthy is a veterinarian. McCarthy said he was not told in advance about their visit and was not asked to accompany them, but would have joined them if asked.

Wein said he would meet with Buddy leaders soon to discuss the issues raised in the meeting with the volunteers and “operational concerns.”

Pollard, who works as a solutions analyst managing databases for hospitals, said she tried to work through “channels” by first raising her concerns in a 9/23/13 email to Crystal Litteral, the co-director of the Buddy shelter operation, and asking for a meeting to discuss them. Litteral is the only legally responsible party who signed the contract with the county and was listed in federal IRS records as the lone officer of the organization.

Pollard said Litteral did not respond but she was summoned to a 9/24/13 meeting with Carletti and her longtime employee, Jenn Callahan, who is now titled as the co-director of the animal control/shelter group.

Pollard said her concerns were not fully addressed, and she was told that “cats die,” yet she continued to volunteer to try to help the animals. But she said that she saw at least a dozen dead cats in a two week period, including some who had entered the shelter in seeming good health, and finally decided she had had enough.

On her Facebook wall, Pollard posted 10/6/13 that: “Taxpayers of Cecil County need to be made aware of the gross misappropriation of their tax dollars to an organization made up of friends who lack professionalism, processes or the ability to operate a no-kill shelter.”

In other postings, Pollard complained about the conditions of cats kept in an “isolation” room that she described as a dark “closet.” She was concerned about “Olivia,” a cat who she said came into the facility appearing healthy but quickly showed signs of a ringworm skin condition, respiratory infection and an infected eye. “I was told they were out of meds (oops),” she wrote.

Carletti had a quick response, threatening Pollard within a few hours on her own Facebook wall: “Be careful why [sic] you say. I have a lot of friends and a really good lawyer,” Carletti posted. “I will slap you with a lawsuit faster than you can blink,” she warned.

Indeed, while Pollard and the other volunteers were meeting with county officials to express their concerns, a lawyer retained by the Buddy group produced a letter threatening Pollard with legal action. Pollard said she was warned at her meeting with county officials that she should “retain legal counsel” and didn’t understand why.

But shortly thereafter she received a “cease and desist” letter dated 10/10/13 from Elkton lawyer James A. Dellmyer, of the William F. Riddle law firm. He said he had been retained by A Buddy for Life, Inc. to challenge “defamatory statements” about the Buddies and warned Pollard that “Asserting that there exists abuse, negligent and false representations by A Buddy for Life is defamatory.”

“It is apparent from your conduct that you intend to cause damage to A Buddy for Life’s business relationships and reputation in the community,” the lawyer wrote. And he said the Buddies had retained him to pursue legal action against Pollard, unless she would “cease and desist” and not “persist in this course of conduct” commenting about the group. The lawyer also cited various laws and suggested Pollard could go to jail.

Before the Buddies got their lucrative contract with the county government, the group had just a few thousand dollars in its bank account. It was unclear how the legal fees were being paid to threaten critics. (The Riddle law firm has represented Carletti in other litigation to obtain custody of a child, in conjunction with her live-in associate Heather Buckley. Buckley is employed as a paid animal control officer of the Buddy group despite no previous experience in the animal control field.) Cecil Times has phoned Dellmyer and will update this report upon his response.

The legal threats against Pollard, the volunteer, raise questions about citizens’ rights to redress their government on matters of public, and taxpayer, interest as well as provisions of state law on “SLAPP” actions—or “strategic litigation against public participation”—which is defined as legal threats designed to silence citizens from speaking out on public issues. State law takes a dim view of SLAPP legal actions and specifies various remedies for persons against whom such tactics are employed.

Pollard said she was “shocked” and “saddened” about the legal threats, and that her only interest was the well-being of the animals, which had led her, and her teenaged daughter, to spend many hours each weekend cleaning cat areas, feeding and caring for animals as unpaid volunteers. She said she did not have the money to hire a lawyer to fight any legal attack on her by the Buddies for voicing concerns to the county officials in charge of the taxpayer-financed contract. And she didn’t even mention people by name, she said, until she was personally attacked and threatened by online commenters.

Subsequently, Carletti has posted her own photos on Facebook and stated that the cats in question are all in good health.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the Buddies contract rests with County Executive Tari Moore, who has the power under the contract to terminate it for any reason. Moore had private meetings several months ago with Carletti and Buddies officials, after which Carletti expressed confidence that Moore was firmly on the group’s side.

In comments posted 8/1/13 under her own Facebook account, in reponse to Carletti, Moore indicated she would not alter the three-year county contract with the Buddies, regardless of County Council actions to revise the underlying county animal law. Moore said that “the fact is that Buddies For Life has a three-year contract with the county. Even if the County Council changed the [animal control] ordinance during that time, it would not impact the existing contract (as County Executive I am responsible for all contract execution.)”

And Carletti commented 8/7/13 about a private meeting she and Callahan had with Moore, claiming that Moore said she would not support inclusion of cats in county animal law. “Tari is your friend,” Carletti told her supporters. “If you voted for her, Good Job!” Carletti had earlier promoted an email campaign among her supporters to urge Moore to side with the group on the issue.

In fact, the county contract with the Buddies requires them to enforce the county’s animal law. The County Council has the power under the county Charter to revise or amend county laws—subject to a possible veto by Moore.

Meanwhile, two members of the oversight panel appointed with the endorsement of Councilors Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3), the remaining members of the old Amigos faction, have attacked the panel’s chair, Yelton, at public meetings of the panel in recent months.

Laura Hudson (Dunn’s choice), whose family operates a horse rescue that got $12,000 from the county government last year, read from a written text at the 9/17/13 oversight panel meeting to claim that Yelton’s criticism of the then-pending animal control ordinance in comments on a Cecil Times article in 2012– before the oversight panel was even created –showed she was biased and “it seems you have a personal agenda.”

Ricky Lewis II (Broomell’s choice), operator of a cat rescue who was cited for several violations of county animal laws in the past, claimed at the same session that any changes in kennel rules “doesn’t look good” because “you gain, as the chairperson.”

Among the kennel rules he defended was the inclusion of a mandate that only a Maryland veterinarian could treat animals housed at a local kennel. “They wanted to keep the money local,” he said of the rationale for that rule. Lewis was formerly associated with Carletti in operations of another cat rescue group.

(Their comments also parallel an attack on the panel chairwoman by Carletti, posted 8/31/13 on Facebook, complaining that the chairwoman had a “conflict” as a boarding kennel operator, and claimed she was focused on “stupid s***” and “her personal agenda was shining through.”)

Yelton responded calmly at that September meeting that, “Everyone around this table has a vested interest or we wouldn’t be sitting around this table” and each member brings a “unique perspective” to the issues.

In her initial suggestion that cats be included in licensing laws, the chairwoman was referencing policies in effect in other counties in the state. State law requires that all ‘owned’ cats have proof of rabies shots as a public health and safety measure, but without licensing—even for a token fee of a dollar or two—there is no way to promote compliance.

Since Carletti stirred up opposition to cat licensing, the oversight panel has focused instead on several regulatory issues, and complex forms that the Buddies created without any county oversight or hearings, for mandates on commercial kennel operators.

Lewis supported the provisions at a September meeting, saying that the mandates were intended to “make it dangerous” for “puppy mills” to locate in Cecil County.

Among the most controversial points are mandates that only a Maryland vet can be used for medical care of animals, dogs must have a mandatory two hours per day “exercise” regimen, and that the animals must be examined by a veterinarian every six months.

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15 Responses to ‘Buddy” Group, with $2.2 Million Cecil County Animal Control Deal, and Allies Push Legal Steps Against Critics, Oversight Panel

  1. Topcat on October 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Why am I not surprised. Mindy Carletti and her BFL bunch bullying to try and make sure someone keeps quiet. I have seen her do it in meetings before so this is no surprise that she would line up her minions to attack a person on Facebook who tells the truth.

    Tari Moore says the contract stays, My how things change when you get the bigger chair and office.

    Watching Ricky Lewis try and hijack the oversight committee was sure a sight. He has had too much of the BFL kool-aid now too and believes it…

    I have seen the pictures and those don’t look like healthy animals in my opinion. The only problem was that they had a heads up before Wein and the others came to see what was going on and conveniently leaving out a qualified vet in the walk through. …

    How much more money gets spent on this unqualified group before it gets shut down? I think an outside audit is necessary to see what has really happened to all the money and not an auditor picked by BFL or Carletti or Al!

    BFL can sue me if they want. I will continue to comment about them and Carletti since they have made them selves public figures they are now not able to hide behind that law. I say we all chip in for a lawyer for Tammy or maybe Broomell can recommend a good lawyer for us at county expense.

  2. doggone tired on October 17, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Kudos to Tammy Pollard and her bravery to standing up to Mindy Carletti and her animal rights people…. The are making so much money from the contract … and don’t have money to spend on blankets, or meds and right sized enclosures for cats and dogs?…The county citizens pay a Buddy for Life $60,000 a month and they have volunteers doing their work?

    Complaining to county officials has done no good so far as they cover for one another….. When anyone questions them their response is bully and intimidate everyone.

  3. cats on October 17, 2013 at 8:08 am

    This is something I knew was going to happen. (And why would Al Wein be the one to inspect considering during the contract phase he always had his head together with the 3 Amigo’s?)

    This is what happens when you put someone in Animal Control that has no idea what they are doing …. I have also seen the pictures and this is not what I think you would find a cat in a cage to look like, with stool, snot and god knows what else all over the cage just because it was morning.

    Trying to silence Tammy and the other volunteers by threats is the Carletti way. She works with threats as do ABFL trying to silence people who really care about the animals not the money. These people were volunteers and were not in it for the money so they have nothing to gain from lying as Carletti and ABFL are saying that they are doing.

    But of course ABFL have a lot to gain financially don’t they?

  4. cats on October 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Once again Carletti puts up a cute dog on her Facebook page to play on the emotions of people– one of her grand acts.

    Cecil Times thank you for your honest and ethical reporting. I, as one of the people who were behind the curtain and knew what was going to happen at ABFL, commend you.

  5. Michelle J on October 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Tari Moore should have terminated this contract from the very beginning. There are so many areas of breach, but does Tari have a spine?

    Why should we be surprised that Carletti and Callahan intimidate people they do not like or are getting in their way; no wonder they are such good friends with Smigiel. …

    I also find very interesting that when there is a sick animal which is picked up by animal control how it finds its way to Carletti’s office. Conflicts of interest are all over this contract. Carletti writes the ordinance, Carletti friends get the animal control contract, Carletti backs Buddys for Life, Carletti is the sole vet overseeing operations, etc.

    The three pseudo “Amigos” Wein, Brooks and Sennstrom do a kennel inspection. That’s a joke, what are their credentials in animal care? Those are the same three that were involved in giving them the contract in the first place.

    Tari Moore don’t look for my vote or any other animal lovers vote your next time around. This entire kennel licensing is a joke – only Maryland vets. Isn’t that restraint of trade? And also very sad is that their position for this, was to keep business in Cecil Co. Then why has a Delaware group with no facility, no experience in animal control and no money become so endearing to the county?

    Who was everyone taking their orders from?. It all fits like a puzzle. Will this county ever get out from under these bullies ?

  6. Mike R on October 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I am not at all surprised, it was just a matter of time before Carletti would rear her head again. With all the money they are getting from the county, why are they allowed to take in only what they want to take in.

    Wild cats are a major problem in this county– they carry diseases including rabies and are a public health problem. Carletti and her crony on the Animal Control Oversight Commission are supposedly cat rescuers, so why is it that when someone calls about needing help to deal with wild cats dumped on or running across their property we we are told they won’t take them and gives us phone numbers for other cat rescues?

    After the Buddys refused to take the cat and kittens I had which were strays (not my cat) I stopped at the old SPCA and they helped me and gave me traps to catch them and took them in for me.

    Why are the Buddies not helping us now, when cats ARE in the new county ordinance? Is it because that entire group of County honchos in Elkton, including Tari Moore, are in cahoots with the Buddys?

    Yes I may be one of the good old boys they laugh about, but cats are a problem and if the county doesn’t start to address that issue, I’m just going to bring them down to the County building and let them go in their lobby. Then Tari and the County Council can deal with them!

  7. Alice in Wounderland on October 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I don’t have a dog/kennel in this dispute but I have to wonder why the law states there must be a partition between [private] kennels but at the Buddies for Life place the dogs are crated next to each other and there are no partitions.

    Question: why is a kitten that appears to be 6 weeks old in a crate with two adult cats at the Buddy shelter? Every cattery I have every been to has kept Moms and kittens by themselves until they were sent home. Two adults, a kitten, litter box, food, water and maybe a bed stuffed in a crate sure does not leave much room to move around.

    What does Al Wein know about animals if he thinks this is ok? Any one with a heads up on an inspection has time to clean up.

  8. Donna on October 18, 2013 at 5:49 am

    There’s a meeting Tuesday night I hope all can attend. As a tax payer and animal lover, I am sickened by this and we deserve answers but most importantly, our animals deserve better. Everyone needs to remember this was Broomell and Dunn’s back room deal. Maybe they along with Carletti need to spend a few months in those little cages and see how they like it!

    Animal Care & Control Oversight Commission Meeting – October 22, 2013

    County Administration Building, Perryville Room, Elkton, MD 21921
    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Informational meeting between County Executive, County staff, Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission, and Animal Care and Control Authority.

  9. Too Much Government on October 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

    If it wasn’t for the “three amigos,” we would not have this mess. But then for the rest of the Council to support this insanity is quite puzzling.

    Tari Moore voted against the contract to the Buddy people when she was a commissioner. So now I believe needs to explain her position on this issue especially since Carletti states that “Tari is your friend” and she would not support cats be included in the Ordinance.

    Tari Moore needs to tour the county and see that those TNR [trap, neuter, release] programs for feral cats do not work. Cats are everywhere and animal control doesn’t want them regulated.

    With the amount of money they get monthly, they can pick up cats and take cats in that are no longer wanted. Feral cats are a health problem and can carry rabies. With all these unowned cats running around and messing on our lawns and gardens, is the county prepared to help those of us who are constantly annoyed by these creatures? Will you pay the medical bills of our kids that are scratched or bitten by these wild cats running all over the county?

  10. Alice in Wonderland on October 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Cat are in, cats are out, no matter how you look at it there seems to be a feline problem in Cecil County. There is a solution to the problem, area vets could offer one day a month to do spay/neuters on pets at cost.

    This wouldn’t solve the problem competely but would sure cut down on the numbers reproducing.

  11. Gene R on November 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I had a very unpleasant experience with them. I’ve always had a feral cat problem where I live. One very nasty feral cat attacked one of my cats several times and after about $400 in vet bills I decided to trap the cat . I took it to Buddy for Life and could not believe what I was told: They would not take the cat.

    I asked what am I supposed to do with it? I just jokingly said should I just release it somewhere or shoot it? The guy there said “I guess you just gotta do what you gotta do.” I could not believe it.

    What are they getting paid for? I never had this problem with the SPCA. I called [County Councilor] Alan McCarthy’s office and complained to someone who answered the phone. She just said, well they are a no kill shelter and they can only do so much. If they are a no kill shelter why did one of their employees say it was OK to shoot a cat?

    I thought the purpose of animal control was to control dangerous animals. There is a serious cat problem in this county. All that money for no services!

    • Deuteronomy on November 3, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      I suggest delivering feral cats to Dr Mindy Carletti, All Paws Animal Wellness Clinic, 1098 Principio Furnace Road, Perryville, MD 21903. She promotes feral cat “colonies” and will surely place them in a caring, loving, colony.

      • Johanna Z on November 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

        Deuteronomy, are you for real? All that will be done is release the feral cats somewhere else and give another part of the county the problem.

        • Deuteronomy on November 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

          Volunteers feed the “feral cat colonies”. One such colony is located in the Perryville Community Park. What could possibly go wrong? After all, Dr. Mindy Carletti is a Vet.

    • Stupid Intolerant on November 4, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      Dear Mr. R,You are receiving services for your tax dollars.BFL is hiring pitbull attorneys to attack whistle blowers.

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