State Vet Board Fines Buddies for No License at Animal Shelter; Carletti Sanctioned on ‘Controlled Dangerous Substance’ Violations
A CECIL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT
The state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has fined A Buddy for Life, which handles animal control for Cecil County under a more than $2.25 million contract, for operating its rented animal shelter in Elkton without a required state license for a year. The state panel also imposed fines and license sanctions involving drug laws against Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian who provides services and has financial ties to the Buddy group.
Meanwhile, a dog, “Brittany”– that mauled a woman providing the Buddies-owned dog with a temporary foster home and that killed her pet Chihuahua with such violence that its eyeball flew out of its socket– was recently offered for adoption again by the group in online postings without mentioning the pet’s death or the violent attack on the woman.
And in its latest financial reports to the county, the Buddies have found yet another fiscal gimmick to try to justify the $60,000 a month the county gives the group: claiming IRS car usage reimbursement rates for use of a personal vehicle for business purposes. But the county owns the two trucks it bought for the Buddies, who only pay $1 a year each to lease them.
In general terms, County Executive Tari Moore told Cecil Times, she thinks the Buddies are “doing a good job on animal control,” but “improvements” need to be made on the animal handling/animal rescue side of the operation and county officials are considering possible remedies. She said she was aware of the group’s new ads promoting adoption of Brittany.
In documents recently obtained by Cecil Times, the state vet board imposed a $750 fine against Crystal Litteral, who is a co-director of the Buddy group in its animal control operations but is the only person named on the county government contract, filings with the Internal Revenue Service, and a newly-issued veterinary hospital license for the Buddies’ animal shelter in Elkton. Under a final consent order issued by the vet board 4/15/14, the panel levied the fine against Litteral, as the “owner” of the Buddies, for operating without a required veterinary hospital license for most of 2013. After the vet board launched its investigation, the Buddies finally obtained the required license last December.
A license is needed if drugs, medications and vaccines are stored and/or administered at an animal facility. The Board concluded that since it was a first offense and Litteral paid the fine promptly that no further action would be taken. The Board could have suspended the license or placed the facility or Litteral on probation but chose not to do so.
The vet board took much stronger action against Carletti for violations of “state and federal law” involving “controlled dangerous substances” at her animal hospital in Perryville, All Paws. Carletti is closely aligned with the Buddies, provides veterinary services to the group, personally posted the financial bond required to bid on the animal control contract with the county government, and filed papers with the state as the Buddies’ “resident agent” for legal purposes.
The board imposed a $3,000 fine and suspended her veterinary license for a week, but then suspended $2,000 of the fine and stayed the license suspension, while putting her on probation with the state for six months. If the board concludes the probation is not completed to its satisfaction, the rest of the fine and the license suspension could be re-imposed.
In a 6/27/14 “consent order” issued by the board and signed by Carletti in accepting the board’s decision, the Vet Board concluded that its investigation of Carletti’s records and operations showed that during a three-year period—2010, 2011 and 2012– Carletti failed “to ensure compliance with all state and federal laws …pertaining to Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS.)”
By signing the order, the board said that Carletti, while “denying liability in this case,” nevertheless was “acknowledging that the Board has sufficient evidence to find, as fact, and conclude as a matter of law” that she “failed to ensure that all CDS were maintained, administered, prescribed, dispensed and destroyed in compliance with state and federal laws.” The order stated that the violations involved “CDS medications that were not supported by medical records as being associated with an appropriate veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”
Asked if the violations of “state and federal law” cited in the board’s order against Carletti were also referred to any other state or federal law enforcement agency, Laura Downes, executive director of the board, told Cecil Times, “My understanding is that federal agencies had been privy to the situation that gave rise to this but they have not pursued action against her.”
Veterinarians are required to hold a special permit from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to obtain and dispense CDS. Controlled drugs can include tranquilizers, pain-killers and euthanasia chemicals.
Cecil Times obtained the vet board orders against Litteral and Carletti under the state’s public information act. The board only provided the final consent orders and denied our request for related documents, including charging documents voted on by the board and which would have been the basis of a hearing. Carletti initially asked for a hearing, which would have ultimately resulted in a public paper trail of the proceedings and the board’s case against her, but then she dropped her hearing request and signed a consent agreement with the board.
State public information law governing the vet board provides that the panel must disclose “any orders and findings that result from formal disciplinary actions.” Downes said that the board considers the brief summary of facts included in the final order as constituting the “findings” that must be disclosed. Cecil Times will be filing an appeal to seek disclosure of the details of the board’s investigation and “findings” that formed the basis of the board’s decision to impose sanctions.
Meanwhile, the Buddies recently posted an online ad promoting adoption of “Brittany,” a Rottweiler mix dog, with a picture that was confirmed as the same dog by eyewitnesses to the presence of the dog in the home of the woman who was attacked last December. The new posting stated that the dog had some “food aggression” issues but did not mention the fatal attack on the small dog or the mauling of the woman, who required multiple stitches to close the deep wounds on her arm and treatment with antibiotics.
“Brittany” was placed under a 10-day quarantine after the attack and thereafter apparently moved across state lines to Delaware. The Buddies failed to include any mention of the attack in their required reports to the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission (ACCOC) as required by county law. When questioned about the incident at a February meeting, the Buddies claimed it was an “oversight” that they failed to provide the information as required. [See previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/02/cecil-county-animal-control-group-claims-oversight-on-secrfecy-of-fatal-dog-attack-claims-big-taxpayer-costs-for-a-day-of-care-state-probe-continues/ ]
Asked by Cecil Times recently if the Buddies had yet to provide the required report on the Brittany incident, Lyn Yelton, chair of the ACCOC, said the group still had not complied.
The county’s animal law—which was largely re-written by Carletti who was allowed by then-County Commissioners to scrap most of the proposed law changes drafted by a broad oversight panel that worked on revisions for nearly two years—provides that the animal control contractor must disclose to the ACCOC “all reports of animal bites” including involvement of other agencies, such as the health department that oversees a quarantine and report the “results in each such case…”
Failure to provide the oversight panel with “complete and adequate documentation” of all required reports “constitutes a breach of contract and shall be grounds for termination,” county law states. Furthermore, failure to provide all required reports to the oversight panel “shall result in a non-refundable five percent reduction” in the next county-paid monthly fee to the animal control contractor, the law states.
The Brittany bite/attack report was due in January. County taxpayers pay the Buddies $60,000 a month, so a $3,000 penalty reduction should have been made, but wasn’t, to the following month’s county payment. The law is unclear if continued failure to provide a required report to the ACCOC should result in continued penalties for each subsequent month for which a required report still has not been provided.
County officials have had numerous options to cancel the Buddies contract, including the failure to have a required state license for nearly a year as reported repeatedly by Cecil Times, but the current administration has declined to do so.
In the final hours of its existence before the transition to Charter government in late 2012, the old “Three Amigos” majority of the County Commissioners suddenly extended a public Request for Proposal that had set an 18-month animal control contract term to a three-year contract—without public hearings, a revised RFP or advance notice to the public of the change. Moore was sworn into office as county executive three days later. The contract provides that it may be terminated by the county for any reason.
The ACCOC oversight panel is scheduled to meet on Wednesday 7/30/14 at 7 p.m. in the Elk Room on the first floor of the County Administration building in Elkton. The meeting is open to the public.