Cecil Co Exec Moore Demands $500K to Buy Animal Shelter, Won’t Say Where or Who Would Run it; Singing Secret Tune?

February 15, 2016
By


NEWS ANALYSIS

‘You just slip out the back, Jack (Robert Hodge)
Make a new plan, Stan (Alan McCarthy)
You don’t need to be Coy, Roy (Dan Schneckenburger)
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus (George Patchell)
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee…(Joyce Bowlsbey)’

–Paul Simon, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” as Moore-dified to County Council on shelter plan

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Cecil County Executive Tari Moore is asking the County Council to sign a blank check for $500,000 so she can buy property for a county-owned animal shelter, but won’t say where it is, or who would operate a county facility at what additional cost, according to documents submitted to the Council. Furthermore, documents suggest she may come back later for even more taxpayer money to buy a second animal facility.

In addition, the Council and Moore have settled on two citizen appointees to a Moore-administration controlled Animal Control Oversight Board. Neither man has any previous experience in Cecil County animal control matters. And new fiscal reports show that A Buddy for Life, Inc., currently providing animal services under a county contract, suddenly spent $7,800 in “maintenance funds” in the last three months of 2015 even though they rent and do not own an Elkton kennel.

Furthermore, Moore and some other top county officials seem to be laboring under an odd notion, not in practice in other area government-owned shelters, that strays should be kept at one facility for a brief holding period and then transported to another county-owned facility that could be operated by a private “rescue” group to care for animals after a brief county-subsidized five business day holding period. Apart from duplication of staff, space, supplies, transport expenses and logistics, such a concept does not take into account the impact on animals of multiple moves and confusion of animal owners on where to go when searching for lost pets.

Specifically, Moore is now asking the Council to approve a budget amendment that would provide $400,000 to buy a property and another $100,000 to renovate and equip an animal shelter, using county capital bonds that were issued for other projects in the current Fiscal 2016 budget. (Moore did not specify which other projects would be short-changed to shift the money to purchase, repair and equip an animal shelter.) But since the county is not scheduled to go back to the bond/borrowing market for another two years, some other already-approved project or projects apparently could be slowed down to make way for the quick purchase of a shelter.

The latest moves by Moore continue a pattern of secrecy and exclusion of the County Council and citizens as she goes about attempting to come up with an animal control program, despite the fact that she has had over three years to do so and resolve the controversy over caring for stray animals that has plagued the county since a more than $2.24 million, three-year contract was given to the private A Buddy for Life, Inc. animal rescue group. That pact expired 12/31/2015 but Moore unilaterally extended it for another six months, with options to renew for another year.

Instead of coming forward to the County Council and citizens with a comprehensive program and proposal for animal control services, and subjecting it to public discussion and input, Moore is drizzling out bits and pieces without any clear big picture. She has also unilaterally suspended action on a “Request for Proposals” or RFP issued last summer that received competitive bids from four private groups seeking to operate animal control services for the county. A contract was due to be signed 12/1/15 under that process but Moore alone decided instead to extend the Buddies pact.

That RFP competitive bidding process expires 3/31/16 and unless a decision is made on who will operate an animal shelter is made by then, the whole competitive bidding process would have to be started all over again, which could take another five months. Moore has also left open the option, not specified in the RFP, of taking the entire animal sheltering/animal control services “in house,” with county employees receiving county benefits and pay grades, at an unknown cost.

Moore must present a new Fiscal 2017 budget to the County Council on April 1, which may spell out further plans. But in legislation submitted to the Council for introduction on Tuesday 2/16/16, Moore wants to get her $500,000 shelter purchase approved within days of that submission with a Council vote on 4/5/15– but before the council has begun any meetings or deliberations on the overall budget proposals. But even with the April 1 budget deadline looming, Moore has submitted multiple budget amendments to the Council, on animal control and other matters, throughout the budget year so the full scope of her plans may not be known until later in the new budget year.

Moore has been operating totally outside the competitive bidding RFP process for the past several months as she and her senior aides have gone house hunting to buy a property at taxpayer expense at which animals would be housed. None of the bidders in the RFP process offered a property for sale to the county. Moore recently signed two property purchase “options,” at a price of $400,000 each, for the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. 12-acre property and shelter on the state-maintained Route 213 in Chesapeake City, and the private Canine Care boarding kennel on Shady Beach Road outside North East, located on a narrow road on about 2 acres in a residential area.

(The option process does not bind the county to buy both properties, but gives the government the right to inspect the premises and decide whether to proceed with a purchase contract. State law requires public hearings on signed option agreements before any contract to buy is completed, but the county has not yet scheduled hearings on the options.)

Moore’s new request to the Council says she anticipates buying one property at a cost of $400,000, plus an extra $100,000 to renovate and equip a county shelter facility. In addition, a “fiscal note” submitted separately to the Council states that the executive intends “to acquire at least one and possibly additional sites in order to provide animal care and control services to the County in a most efficient and accessible manner.”

Sources told Cecil Times that county officials have inspected both the Canine Care and CCSPCA facilities, but there have also been discussions about a possible third property. But no public notice of any other property option has been disclosed.

Cecil Times contacted county Director of Administration Al Wein last Friday, with questions about scheduling hearings on the two known options, any possible third property purchase option, and a timetable for disclosures or decisions on who would operate a potential county owned animal facility. We await his response and will update this report if it is provided.

The fiscal note attached to the new legislation claims that spending $500,000 on one county shelter would save over $1.1 million over 20 years in comparison with the current rental arrangements. But that figure does not take into account ongoing property maintenance costs, equipment replacement costs, utilities expenses, etc., in the future that in the past were covered by a landlord or a private group operating its own shelter under a fee-for-services contract with the county, such as the contract held for many years between the county and the CCSPCA.

But Moore is hiding behind the confidentiality provisions of the RFP process to keep secret the potential costs of the bidders who proposed offering services without selling a property to the county. How can citizens, or the Council, evaluate the relative merits and costs if no one but Moore and her top aides know if there were cheaper options available under the RFP process– or what the true taxpayer costs would be for ongoing maintenance and operations of a county-owned facility outside the RFP process?

Meanwhile, the County Council has decided to appoint Arny Fox, of North East, a retired federal Defense Department employee, as the Council representative to a new Moore-administration controlled Animal Control Oversight Board. (Moore unilaterally suspended the former all-citizen Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission a year ago, and replaced it with a majority county government employee panel whose members are employed by and report to her. The group has not held a public meeting in over a year.) Fox worked as executive director of the Montgomery County, MD Humane Society for 10 years after graduating from Northeastern University, with his employment there ending over 30 years ago.

Moore has picked as her citizen appointee S. Lee Lewis, of North East, the artistic director of the Milburn Stone Theater at Cecil College. He is said to have a beautiful singing voice, according to reviews of productions on social media, and has adopted three dogs. Neither of the appointees has had any visible or knowledgeable role in county animal shelter issues, and their lack of knowledge of local issues was considered a “plus,” sources said. Regardless, even if they had independent viewpoints, they would be out-voted by the executive’s own employees on the panel.

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15 Responses to Cecil Co Exec Moore Demands $500K to Buy Animal Shelter, Won’t Say Where or Who Would Run it; Singing Secret Tune?

  1. Ron Lobos on February 16, 2016 at 7:11 am

    $500K? Isn’t that the same amount of money Prince Georges County spent to move 192 jobs at C&S from Cecil County to their county? By the way, that was really 192 families that lost their source of income. I was told on 2/2/2016 after the evening meeting by 3 County Council people that we couldn’t afford that kind of money.

  2. Rob on February 16, 2016 at 10:23 am

    It can’t be both a “blank check” and a check for $500,000.

    CECIL TIMES replies: The “pay to the order of” portion of the check is blank.

  3. Jonathan H on February 19, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you Cecil Times for bringing these outrageous demands by Mrs. Moore to our attention. Many questions need to be answered. Since when is it permitted to have no transparency with not only the taxpayers but also with the County Council members?

    It is the County Council’s responsibility to see to it that this kind of money is not squandered on frivolous items– does she really think the county should buy TWO properties? Why? We need an explanation.

    Why has the Council not been given the RFP’s by groups that bid to provide the animal care, and evaluate for themselves whether is it a financially sound move to purchase land, building and equipment. What were the bids? Lots of rumors out there that some of the bids would have been cost effective and a lot cheaper than the route it now seems like our county executive may be going.

    The answers provided at the last Council work session, in my opinion, were unacceptable. What are you hiding Tari? Who’s pushing for this lame duck decision to spend more money on animal control? Haven’t you had 3 years to figure this out? So what’s with all the secrecy? You seem to be moving to give Buddy’s the full year as the provider, or maybe even more. You want to buy them a shelter and install them there? Enough!!!

    We have so many important issues and problems in this county– drugs, crime, no jobs, etc. Why are you spending so much time and money on the stray dogs, when a cost-effective solution is pretty clear to everyone but Mrs. Moore.

  4. Joe C on February 20, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for bringing out the operation and maintenance cost issue. This is something I have been talking about at the council meetings. This applies to all county facilities.

    • A Rewinder on February 22, 2016 at 9:04 am

      The ongoing animal control nightmare was caused by former Commissioners Broomell, Dunn, and Mullen, aka The Three Amigos. They modified the contract terms to increase the duration and amount paid as an “emergency”. The only emergency was that they were leaving office and this was their last opportunity to reward Dr. Mindy Carletti, who they had allowed to re-write the ordinance to benefit herself.

      Joe Carabetta is an ally of Carletti and long time political associate of the “The Three Amigos.” As County Executive, he would be the Fourth Amigo.

      • Joe C on February 23, 2016 at 5:09 pm

        Nice post, Bob!

  5. Cliff's Girl on February 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Why is Tari Moore going down this path, starting up a new shelter when she won’t even be here to complete the job! Makes no sense to me. Sounds like a plan to make A Buddy for Life set for life. Carletti always said that if she got the contract she would do what it takes to keep it!

    I’m not a Carletti fan by any means. IMHO AB4L has to go! But, this plan of Moore’s will cause many problems. As much as I hate to say it, the contract with Buddies should stay in place until the next County Executive takes over. Council should block Moore in every way possible. There is a remedy for this situation, just not now.

    As for Joe C, I feel he would be a good County Executive, however, he and his wife are best buds with AB4L which will taint his candidacy.

    • Joe C on February 25, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Thank you very much! Mindy is our VET for our cats. Any decision I make will be based on facts, what is best for the animals and within budget for the taxpayers.

    • Citizens4Truth on February 26, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Anybody supporting Mindy Carletti is unelectable.

  6. Madelyn Yelton on February 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    There is no reason to keep AB4L in place beyond the 6 month extension CE Moore has granted them. Furthermore, there is no reason for the county to spend $500,000 to buy a facility.

    The former SPCA can be operational in less than a month. They have the expertise and the facility. They did the job for over 30 years. They filed the appropriate RFP. Plus, if the rumors are true, their bid is quite reasonable.

    Why is the County Executive withholding pertinent information from the Cecil Council and the taxpayers? Why is AB4L allowed to continue when the County Executive has received three years of complaints about their operation – from volunteers, paid employees, and at least one outside veterinarian? Not to mention the negative report from Councilman McCarthy (also a veterinarian) after his visit to the facility.

    I thank both the Cecil Times and Councilman McCarthy for their investigations. I also appreciate Councilman McCarthy’s recent questioning of the administration. Taxpayers and concerned citizens anxiously await answers to his questions – what is the end game? Who will staff Animal Control? Where? When? And at what expense?

  7. Politics for Dummies on February 26, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I am very much in agreement with Madelyn Yelton. There is absolutely no reason to keep Buddies for Life beyond the extension that they’ve been granted. Dr. McCarthy couldn’t have stated more clearly the horrible conditions of the facility Buddies for Life run and the animals they hoard. In the 3 years that Buddy for Life has been in “control” there has been more controversary, complaints, alleged breaches in contract, questionable conduct, misappropriation of tax dollars, lack of transparency, neglect, etc. than was ever claimed against the former SPCA.

    Keeping in mind, investigations by the state’s attorney and the Maryland State Police into the allegations against the SPCA concluded there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and that the witnesses (fired employees) lied. Now, ask yourself what was the real agenda for this HUGE show and attack against an organization that ran very well for over 30 years – – the common denominator in everything has always been Mindy Carletti, Orchestrator/Puppet Master Extraordinaire.

    I am thankful for Cecil Times, as well, for keeping the public informed with honest, no holds barred, reporting. This information is important and no one else is getting it to the residents in such an efficient, effective manner.

    I am also thankful that Councilman Dr. McCarthy addresses the issues that no one else seems to want to deal with in such a direct and honest fashion. Kudos to him! Honesty is always the best policy.

    With regard to Joe Carabetta. He and his wife are wonderful, very good hearted people who truly seem to care about Cecil County. Given Joe’s strong stance, and statements made, against drugs and the epidemic facing this County I am wondering why he would align himself with his veterinarian and have her publicly endorsing him. It was not so long ago the state vet board took action against said vet for violations of “state and federal law” involving “controlled dangerous substances”…

    Just say No to Drugs! I, too, believe that will “taint his candidacy”.

    • Citizens4Truth on February 26, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      I fully agree! He should remember – if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    • Joe C on February 27, 2016 at 7:23 am

      POD,
      Thank you for the kind comments concerning my wife and I. This whole issue will probably not even be an issue by election day since Ms. Moore is on the eve of announcing her decision on this matter. Please read page three of this weeks Cecil Guardian.Thank you.

      • Madelyn Yelton on February 27, 2016 at 1:33 pm

        It won’t be an issue as long as County Executive Moore’s proposal is a sound one for both the animals and the taxpayers.

  8. Ron Lobos on February 29, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Just wondering. What if the CCPS hadn’t leased ( for $1/year) that 8 acre parcel to the farm museum but rather given it back to the county to be developed for a new animal control location. What if students volunteered to help maintain the new facility right next door to the school. What would have happened if we had used some common sense in this animal control decision and just used a little creativity instead of finding more ways to spend even more taxpayer dollars? What if?

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ALAN McCARTHY for COUNTY EXEC

*THANK YOU, CECIL COUNTY VOTERS!

* I am grateful for your support and I heard your voices on issues that concern you. I will work hard to create jobs, expand economic development, back our law enforcement officers in the fight against crime and drugs, and support strong schools..

*We will work together to make Cecil County "The Best It Can Be."

(Auth: Friends of Alan McCarthy, Roger Owens, Treas.)

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