Cecil County Council Demands Exec. Action on Animal Control After Race Slurs to Scouts; Moore Suspends Public Oversight Panel

May 8, 2015


The Cecil County Council, confronted by anguished parents and supporters of Girl Scouts who say they suffered racial slurs after they spoke up at a meeting of the county’s animal control oversight panel, is now pressing the County Executive for action to resolve long-standing issues surrounding the county’s animal control contractor, A Buddy for Life, Inc.

In response, County Executive Tari Moore then announced that she would suspend operations of the citizens’ oversight panel– which held quarterly public, audiotaped meetings at which citizens could speak about animal issues– and bring full oversight of the Buddies directly into her administration. The oversight panel itself was not involved in the alleged racially-insensitive incidents after its meeting, and witnesses claimed it was supporters of the Buddies who instigated the alleged incident.

During morning and evening meetings of the Council on 5/5/15, Council members expressed shock and dismay over the alleged incidents, which were first reported by the Cecil Times on 5/4/15. [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/05/cecil-county-animal-oversight-panel-loses-members-girl-scouts-dissed-for-comments-race-slurs-alleged-moore-budget-continues-720k-costs/ ]

“Frankly, it’s been something that’s been bubbling around our agenda for the last four or five months,” Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3), who has been on the Council for about five months, said during the Council’s Tuesday evening meeting. “I certainly thank you for bringing it to a head, at least to us,” he told friends and family of the Girl Scouts who attending the meeting.

But problems surrounding the Buddy for Life contractor have actually been “bubbling” since 2013, the first year of a three-year contract approved by the former “Three Amigos” majority of the old county Board of Commissioners in their last minutes of existence before the start of Charter government. A Buddies-placed “foster” home dog viciously attacked a woman and killed her own pet chihuaua but the Buddies subsequently placed the dog up for adoption on social media without revealing its history.

Then, County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who is a licensed veterinarian, made an unannounced visit to the Buddies rented shelter and reported serious health and living conditions problems in August, 2014. The Buddies’ were also fined by the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners last year for failing to have a required state license. And the group’s veterinarian and initial financier, Mindy Carletti, was disciplined by the same state board for violations of “controlled dangerous substances” laws. (Carletti also virtually single-handedly re-wrote a new animal law that had been drafted by an independent citizens’ task force.)

All of these matters have previously been reported, at length and usually first and exclusively, on Cecil Times.

For over two years, each time problems with the Buddy contractor arose, County Executive Tari Moore has either defended the Buddies or said she was reviewing options and would “soon” have proposals to remedy the situation and reform the county’s animal control system. After McCarthy’s findings, she said she would have a new plan for animal control in a month or so. That was in August, 2014.

Now, after the latest embarrassing incidents, Moore is saying she will come up with a new animal control plan. And in the interim, she has announced she is suspending operations of the five-member volunteer Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission (ACCOC). The panel is down to just three members, after two active members who had asked incisive questions of the Buddies, decided they’d had enough of the hassle—and personal attacks and “ethics” charges endured at the hands of the Buddies and Carletti.

But Moore’s action came after several County Council members said that the ACCOC had disintegrated into irrelevance. Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) said she would not support any new volunteer appointees to the panel until problems with its control by pro-Buddies members had been resolved. “”I don’t think it’s fair to ask citizens to get on it,” she said, due to the “contention that’s on that committee.” Bowlsbey suggested “disband it totally.”

Meanwhile, after the initial Cecil Times report was published on the alleged incidents outside the county building last week, Moore subsequently posted a comment on the Cecil Times Facebook page, stating:

“Last week, the quarterly meeting of the Cecil County Animal Care and Control Oversight Committee was held. During that meeting, four Girl Scouts testified during the public comment time on the agenda. These young ladies are to be commended for making the trip from their homes in Delaware to take part in a government meeting on an issue they cared about.

“After listening to the audio from that meeting, I believe their comments were treated with appropriate respect during the public comment time, but later in the meeting, they were not. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with another’s opinion, our Constitution guarantees free speech and our democratic process should ensure respect for differing opinions/viewpoints.

“Particularly egregious was what occurred after the meeting concluded. I was informed an individual allegedly made inappropriate racial comments directed at some of the Girl Scouts present in front of the building. This is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. At this time, we do not know who the individual was, but we are taking measures to find out. As County Executive, I can assure you threatening and/or abusive behavior is not/will not be tolerated on county property.”

Moore’s statement did not address the comments posted on Facebook by Jason Allison, the County Attorney, as referenced but not quoted in the original Cecil Times article, that were seen by many attendees at the meeting as aggressively defensive of the Buddies and taking a personal tone that was surprising for an official legal representative of the county government. (Allison identified himself as the County Attorney in his comments.)

Council President Robert Hodge stated at the 5/5/15 County Council’s evening “citizens corner” session before the regular Council meeting that “I can tell you he’s been reprimanded informally and asked to tone it down.”

In fact, Allison’s comments on multiple Facebook pages—including those of the Chesapeake Girl Scouts council and a local animal activist group (‘Rescue Me Cecil County’) were deleted after the Cecil Times article was published. (However, some animal activists say they have preserved screen-shots of the comments.)

During the morning and evening meetings of the County Council this week, several members of the Council expressed shock and outrage over the alleged racially biased invective against the young girls, who attended the ACCOC meeting to briefly express their support for humane treatment of animals in the county.

“It was quite an embarrassment for me, and also for Cecil County, I do believe,” said Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who attended the ACCOC meeting but did not witness the incidents outside the county building in Elkton.

While condemning any slurs hurled after the meeting, Hodge sought to shift blame to the Scout’s leaders for bringing the children to the meeting, which he likened to a “war zone,” and said, “I think it was in bad taste that those Girl Scouts were brought into that meeting. I feel they were just used to instigate trouble.”

A Scout parent, Michael Mitchell, told the Council that he was “very proud of the girls” for speaking out at a public meeting, as part of the Scouts’ efforts to expose girls to public policy issues and help them develop leadership skills. He also said he was disappointed that no top Cecil County government officials “reached out to the girls” immediately after the incident to apologize or voice concerns.

Some parents expressed surprise that an official county government meeting would be considered a “war zone” to which children should not be admitted. Some said that they never expected a child’s safety or emotions would be jeopardized by attending and speaking at an official county meeting, and they recounted how upset and traumatized the girls were by the alleged racial slurs hurled at them after the meeting.

For their part, the Buddies have sought to disavow any role in the alleged racial slurs and incidents, posting on their Facebook page that no employee of the Buddies was involved in any confrontation with the Scouts. (However, a video of the incident was recorded by the Buddies and initially posted on their social media– with the apparent voice of Jenn Callahan, the co-director of the group, loudly criticizing the Scouts and saying they would be “reported” to scouting officials for “shouting” outside the county building.) Some parents have protested that their minor children were videotaped without parental permission and their faces posted on social media. The Buddies subsequently deleted their video, but it was captured by others who attended the meeting.

Repeatedly during the Council meetings this week, Hodge sought to transfer responsibility to the County Executive, while simultaneously telling other Council members that if they were unhappy with animal control issues or the county’s ordinance it was up to those council members to offer an alternative.

Hodge’s conflicting commentaries– shifting responsibility and blame to Moore, while also trying to defend her— without accepting any personal responsibility for the situation is a position that is off-kilter with his own record on the issues: call it a Cecil County two-step, and Cecil Times will have more on that in a future report.

(Cecil Times would like to offer kudos to our fellow news-chick, Stephanie Palko at the Cecil Guardian, for her multiple articles published 5/7/15 on the Scouts/ ACCOC issue that poignantly captured the emotional trauma experienced by the girls and their families.)

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4 Responses to Cecil County Council Demands Exec. Action on Animal Control After Race Slurs to Scouts; Moore Suspends Public Oversight Panel

  1. Tammy Pollard on May 11, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I do not understand, nor agree with, suspending the public oversight panel. What needed to be done was to remove one [questionable] individual from said panel and fill the remaining positions with individuals who can affect and implement the needed changes to the current “laws” written by a narcissist. By taking away public meetings and the committee oversight, things will be, as usual, kept from the public and decisions will be made as have been in the past–behind closed doors. I guess rather than being able to attend the animal control oversight meetings, people will simply need to request the financials (reported by Buddies For Life), review them to see the MULTIPLE issues and go to Citizens Corner meetings of the County Council to address questions and concerns.

    In order for a commission to be effective, they must be allowed to do the defined job they were selected to perform. There were plenty of capable, intelligent people on that commission who were treated with very little respect and repeatedly had their integrity questioned– while others, not quite so intelligent, voted not to do their job and never could so much as capture meeting minutes accurately.

    It’s time for HUGE changes in Cecil County and people need to wake up and start caring about how their tax dollars are spent. If things don’t change, this is one taxpayer who will be seriously looking to relocate myself and my family. I know I’m not alone as many of my neighbors have echoed the same sentiments. I’d like my hard earned dollars to be put to good use. I have no problem paying my share of taxes but have a huge issue with how some people choose to spend that money.

    The County Executive stood on an election platform that is now unrecognizable. She had many dedicated campaign supporters that have to be feeling betrayed at this point. Such a sad, sorry state of affairs!

    • C Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich on May 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Good points!

  2. C Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich on May 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Another nice article by Cecil Times! I believe Ms. Tari Moore should be more concerned about the horrendous behavior, services provided, and character of persons that both volunteer and work for A Buddy for Life. I get the feeling Ms. Moore is trying to shift blame from the Buddy for Life to the Animal Oversight Commission persons. From what I have noted, the Animal Oversight Commission attempts to run productive meetings but due to the rude and bully-like behavior they are unable to do so. My heart goes out to those on the Oversight Commission as I believe you are being blamed and treated unfairly.

  3. Dawn George on May 18, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Well, what else should we have expected to occur when the Buddies make a huge blunder in a public meeting and then attack the Girl Scouts who were in the parking lot holding up signs stating, STOP ABUSING ANIMALS, and repeating that statement outside. That is one of the First Amendment Rights to Free Speech that AB4L does not understand.

    Tari Moore, who had a private interview with the Cecil Whig stated she would get to the bottom of the incident in the parking lot. … Moore has not followed up on that promise. She has not asked to speak to anyone involved including adult witnesses who heard the comments. By “muzzling” the Animal Control Oversight she has taken away the right of citizens of this county to express their concerns about AB4L. What she has done is protected AB4L from further blunders in public which effectively took away our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech by reporting to the Oversight Committee and in a public forum for record. Our questions were getting too hard to answer because if our County Government answered them honestly they would have to admit that they made a huge mistake by not severing the contract in 2013 when residents who volunteered there were “fired” by the Buddies because the county was getting too many comolaints about the cat room [conditions]…

    …The 2013 990 EZ [Internal Revenue Service] report by the Buddies says it all. Litteral, who’s exact duties are not written anywhere, took home $55,000 dollars in salary. She is not supposed to be paid by the county’s monthly $60,000, that was only to be used for the care of any county 8 day stray hold [animals.]. That’s it. Nothing else. But they use the money to fund their rescue [and] on that same report there is a statistic that is extremely nauseating and disturbing. They spent $10,000 on animal expenses.

    I would not hold my breath waiting to hear about Moores latest investigation. She has yet to call anyone involved to speak to them about what happened in the parking lot. To put it bluntly my fellow Cecil County residents, Moore and company have done everything in their power to protect the Buddies who reside in Delaware. She has not taken one measure to be the voice and protect the people who reside here in Cecil County. That is a fact backed up by many email exchanges kept for the record.

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