Sunday, November 28, 2010


Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound) volunteers - are they "a gift to the [Stark County] community?"

The Stark County Political Report says:  ABSOLUTELY!

Civic volunteers are the personification of everyday citizens being part of the governance of our local community.  They have no political motivations (i.e. getting re-elected, et cetera).  They are involved because they consummately care about their specific project.

In the case of the dog pound volunteers, if the animals do not have the volunteers looking out for them, their needs and safety concerns may go unmet.

So why raise the question in the first place?

Because the SCPR  is increasingly hearing suggestions that the volunteers (i.e. unpaid Pound workers and Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board [SCDPAB] members) have become a case of "the tail wagging the dog."

The Report has been hearing these rumblings ever since the SCDPAB got very active in forcing the county commissioners' hands in removing Evert Gibson as dog warden earlier this year and in weighing-in against a last minute "surprise" candidate to replace Gibson.  Other criticisms of the commissioners include the appointment of former commissioner Tom Harmon's stepson as a deputy dog warden, the failure of the commissioners to control the union (Local 94, Teamsters Union) and ensure that the Pound function properly.

And there is also the matter of the Animal Welfare Society of Stark County (AWSOSC) being led to believe (by Commissioner Bosley?) that the county would be putting county money into a facility on SCDP grounds to house a spay/neuter clinic operated by AWSOSC (a non-proift).  So far as the SCPR knows, commissioners have not delivered on the commissioner suggestions of financial help (i.e. $1 a year lease, and, perhaps up to $100,000 for reconstruction costs?).

The commissioners "apparent" change in attitude is probably the case (in addition to the evaporation of the political motivations - see below) because of the very limited funds that the county has for such purposes these days.  When it was "more or less promised."

While he has been commissioner, Todd Bosley has been "apparently" been very supportive of the volunteers.  It will be interesting to see whether or not his support continues as ex-commissioner Todd Bosley.  The SCPR suspects that Bosley's interaction with the volunteers will disappear now that he has no political purpose in doing so.

Moreover, former Commissioner Steve Meeks seemed to be on board with Bosley on being gungho for the volunteer groups until November 3, 2010.  Whether or not Meeks genuinely supports the volunteers will be shown by his involvement or non-involvement now that the political purpose is gone.

The Report believes that "in reality" the volunteers have been "a pain in the __ __ ___" to the commissioners including Bosley and Meeks and that the negativity has been embraced by Commissioner Ferguson (see yesterday's video in which he talks about "the - limited - role of the SCDPAB" (a body of volunteers).

Within the past few days, the SCPR has learned that an employee of the Stark County Dog Pound has been written up a second time and/or suspended, depending on whom you believe.

Commissioner Ferguson tells the SCPR (last Wednesday that a Pound employee was "written up a second time", but not suspended).  However, here is a edited e-mail that The Report has gotten on the matter which suggests a suspension, to wit:

I heard that ...  was hosing out a dog cage with the dog still in it. ( supposed to take the dogs out before cleaning the cages , which is more time consuming) The volunteer reported this to the Warden and she said she would handle the situation. A short time later ... came up to the volunteer screaming at her , saying she should not go behind his back , she did not see him spraying the dog ,and on and on .....About this time the Warden walked up and ... stopped shouting (sic) and walked away. The Warden told the volunteer to write a report of the incident and give it to her.

After this, ... again approached the volunteer , saying he wanted her to talk to his wife in the parking lot, implying that his wife would handle the situation, if the volunteer got smart with her.

I heard some of the volunteers that witnessed this, passed the info on to the commissioners, and ... was suspended with pay until a hearing takes place. Not sure how long the suspension is.
Here is another excerpt from an e-mail received by the SCPR that suggests reasons why acrimony is seeming to prevail between the volunteers, county commissioners, and Pound employees. To wit (with minor editing):
I see that this issue is taking a disturbing turn; that being that the real problems that have existed at the pound for some  time, the very same issues that provoked the installation of video cameras in the first place (by Evert Gibson) to record abuse and unnecessary rough handling by the deputies are now being used to defend the abusers.  I believe the freedom of information act makes the tapes available, but the reason they were installed was so that the WARDEN (who it now appears has become the darling of Ferguson and Hanke) can review them on a regular basis.  Obviously the darling is not doing so.  It should also be noted that according to inside sources the deputies have learned how to avoid being photographed.  I have been told that the "program" to view the videos is complicated, hence the evidence that does exist may not have been thoroughly viewed/edited.

As for the dog food:  Food has always been supplied by donations.  When Evert was the warden, if donations ran out, he bought food for the dogs out of his own pocket, but such needs were very few because the pound had (PAST TENSE) the support and respect of the community, so donations were usually plentiful.  I think the current issue is not (as suggested in your video) that dogs are starving, but that moldy food is considered acceptable by this warden.  In some cases there are dogs that come in so malnourished that feeding them extra would be a logical and humane act, but (as I understand) the deputies refuse to allow volunteers to provide extra food to such animals, not for any economic reason, but because the dog might poop more, thus the deputies who are being paid outrageous salaries to CARE for these dogs might have to clean the cage. 

I have personally experienced the irresponsible, inexcusable and irreversible act of ... kill at will behavior.  I have personally seen ...  lift a big dog using a snare pole.  Several people in this neighborhood have seen him exert utterly unnecessary force and roughness, in addition to extreme rudeness to themselves when the pound was called regarding 2 apparently lost dogs that did not require the force used. 

To suggest that the volunteers are making false claims regarding what is and is not basic humane and responsible treatment of animals, civil behavior toward the tax-paying public and competent management by the person who was hired to 'fix' the problems is disturbing to me.  While there may be a volunteer or two who have unrealistic expectations is possible.  I don't know as I don't go down there, but I do know that these people (volunteers) are not working their asses off for any gain or glory.  They are doing so because there is a tremendous need and that need exists because the employees do NOT work their asses off.  Rather, they prefer to do little more than sit on them.

It should also be noted that one of the final blows to Gibson's tenure at the pound came because Ferguson didn't feel   he had received an appropriate response to a personal issue he'd reported.  Now that citizens have boldly come forth to reveal some inexcusable behaviors at the Pound (Greathouse and Beaver) that have resulted in the loss, not to mention heartbreak and financial costs due to a lack of competence and management under the new warden, Ferguson himself seems to be very forgiving. 

Does anyone think that this warden who lives in another county is going to even show up for work when the weather gets bad?  I doubt it.  Has anyone asked WHY she left her previous job?  I'd like to know that answer.  And finally,  her public statement that the heart-stabbing ... and a few other deputies can't bear to have dogs named because it's too upsetting when they have to "put them to sleep"just about made me spew! 

It appears to this reader that certain commissioners have tired of this issue and are taking the easy way out by siding with their new hire rather than making management demands upon her as they did upon her predecessor.  I hope that the new commissioners will use their authority to address this situation. 

So there you have it folks!

It appears that the relationship between the current commissioners (not including the "new to be soon installed" Tom Bernbei) and the volunteers is not the best.

As stated by the second e-mail writer, the new commissioners (Creighton and Bernabei) need to take a firm hand on matters at the Stark County Dog Pound and solve this festering problem "once and for all!"

It is disturbing that there may be those and including, perhaps Commissioner Ferguson and County Administrator Hanke, who find the volunteers as communication "inconvenient truths" especially at a time the county is experiencing severe financial shortages and therefore are to be diminished in terms of their believability so that they do not get in the way of county officials getting public support for additional revenues so sorely needed by the county.

Had Bosley, Meeks, Ferguson, Vignos and Harmon effectively tackled the long brewing SCDP problems over the past five years, the commissioners would not have the current set of problems.

But they didn't.

The SCPR finds it to be an outrage that there might be a subtle trashing of the dog pound civic volunteers by public officials.  If such is the case, cooler heads (Creighton and Bernabei) need to step forward immediately and diffuse this problem which seems to be at "a low boil" currently before it hits "a high boil" and gets out of control.

Civic volunteers and their "check and balance" on how government functions is a critically important part of the public's confidence in government institutions, the local government included.  Commissioners should be pleased that the Pound volunteers are bringing the problems of the Pound to the public's attention.  The way to honor the volunteers is to take their complaints seriously and to solve the problems, post haste

Stark County, with the Frustaci matter fresh in the local collective memory, does not need another "bad taste in the public's mouth" event.  If the commissioners fail "to take the bull by the horns" and solve the Pound problems, "Hell will freeze over" before any kind of tax issue passes in Stark County.  And, inaction or ineffective action could result in a new round of ex-commissioners dotting the Stark County political landscape.

The SCPR applauds the Pound volunteers for exposing the SCDP problems and pushing for resolution.

In doing so, they can expect to kicked around.  The Report has experienced the same fate with the reports and investigations that surface in these pages.  One of the reasons that politicians and many elected officials are disdained by the public (only about 20% of Americans have confidence and trust in government) is because they look after themselves and their political hides rather than the general welfare of the governed.

So rather than fix problems as they can and will continue to surface, the politicos and highly politicized elected office holders either bury the problems or try to make victims out of those in the greater Stark County community who "put the light of day" on their self-serving ways.

Lamentably, the SCPR reminds the Dog Pound volunteers that in looking after the public interest, oft times "their good deeds will not go unpunished."

Such is the reality of life, especially when the electoral fate of public officials may be at stake!

But the Stark County public undoubtedly esteems the likes of the Stark County Dog Pound volunteers!!!

Here is a video of SCDP Advisory Board members discussing "volunteer policy," "whether or not there is a dog food shortage," and "whether or not there is abuse at the Pound."

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