Commissioner Janet Creighton at last Wednesday's regular weekly meeting of commissioners seemed taken aback about the continuing attention that a July 25, 2011 incident (Incident) involving Canton Animal Control Officer Phil Sedlacko (also a long time employee of the Stark County Dog Pound - SCDP or Pound) continues to receive.
Stark County citizen (a former volunteer at the SCDP and a former member of the board of Friends of the Pound) Ellen Shankle made explosive allegations about the deficiencies in operations at the Pound and placed all the blame on commissioners.
Her charges against commissioners have their basis in long standing chronic problems at the Pound going back years and the Incident which is the subject matter of a video which has gone viral on YouTube that appears to have been a triggering event for Shankle's outburst.
Commissioners appeared at last week's meeting to acknowledge that work needs to be done to solve long standing problems that have plagued the Pound.
In fact they sent Chief Administrator Mike Hanke out to the Pound Friday to look into Pound operations. Hanke is to consult with commissioners today in one-on-ones as to his findings.
But the consultation and further commissioner response appears to be "too little, to late" as far as a group of Facebook activists (Petitioners) are concerned.
It seems that rather than quieting public outrage, the response of commissioners has been viewed to be inadequate by the Petitioners.
They have collected over 5,000 signatures and are planning a march on the Stark County office building to present them to commissioners today at 4:00 p.m. followed by a march on Canton City Hall to present the petitions to Canton City Council demanding that county employee and Canton independent contractor (animal control officer) Phil Sedlacko be fired.
Canton officials have a similar problem to Stark County in dealing with the Incident in view of the city's recently extended 90 days contract with Sedlacko. He is believed to be opposed to a proposed change by some that Canton adopt a trap-neuter-return (TNR) in place of the existing Canton policy of animal control.
Canton is using the 90 days to determine whether or not an animal control policy change is in order and whether or not to continue with Sedlacko as its animal control officer. Council is having Canton Health Commissioner James M. Adams appear before them at 6:15 p.m. tonight on the animal control issue.
Examples of questions being raised by the commissioners initial response include:
"If they knew he was coming, won't SCDP employees be minding their "p's and q's" to the utmost?" So why did commissioners announce the date and the time of the visit? Wasn't the Hanke visit nothing more that a "dog and pony show?"
Good questions, no?
In addition, the SCPR has received an e-mail recounting the reaction of a person on viewing/hearing the responses of Stark County Prosecutor Michael Bickis and the commissioners at the Februrary 22nd post-meeting press conference which was filmed and published with last Thursday's SCPR blog.
Here is that person's statement:
I just finished looking at the Commissioners press conference regarding Phil and the dog incident.
Once again they are trying to sweep it under the rug for their teamster buddies.
When I heard the report from the city prosecutors office I couldn't believe what I was hearing and I'm so angry right now. The prosecutor said there wasn't probable cause of criminal activity. Maybe someone should ask them how long it takes for Telazol, the tranquilizer he used, to wear off, being an Euthanasia Tech I know the duration is at best 30 Min, and maybe ask a vet how long it would take a dog to pass away after an artery has been "nicked". I'm sure it wasn't some 10 hours later. A dog who was tranquilized with a dart is not going to bleed like that, if at all.
Another thing that was brought up that was in the so called report was that Reagan [Stark County Dog Warden Reagan Tetreault] applied pressure to the wound and stopped the bleeding. From what I see in the video, she touched the dog for all of about 10 sec, she must have magical hands to stop arterial bleeding that quick and the dog to be still alive when they brought it to the vet 10 hours later.
I think someone should get a copy of this report and investigate it.
To me, it's a doctored report to save their butts.
There are more things that I could pick apart.
If you want to share this with others that want to look into this more, I certainly have no problem with it. I think the news should know and investigate and ask questions as well.The SCPR is also told that Stark County Dog Warden Reagan Tetreault returned to the Pound after last Wednesday's commissioner meeting only to be heard to say that Ms. Shankle had made a fool of herself in her presentation to commissioners on Wednesday in asking them to do a complete rework of Pound operations, including another change in warden which last occurred in January, 2010 when Evert Gibson was fired by a former board of commissioners.
Still another citizen makes the following observations (not the entire statement):
We [Daisy Dog Rescue] had an uphill battle in those days with Jane Vignos, Gayle Jackson, and Richard Regula who stated "having a country club for dogs was more than the county could afford".
Phil Sedlacko is one of many deputies at that pound that needed to be weeded out many many years ago. So many dogs have suffered at the hands of each of them it makes me physically sick to my stomach. It was emotionally draining to see what we saw, and step in there day after day to take the pictures & receive the harassment we did because we were Whistle Blowers.Commissioner Bernabei on Wednesday appeared to commit the commissioners to hold a work session to give the complaints of Pound operations a full public airing.
In view of the continuing questions, it seems to the SCPR that such a work session is a very good idea.
But a work session in and of itself will not be enough.
The commissioners will have to convince (not unlike the job they did in convincing Stark Countians of the authenticity of Stark's financial crisis in persuading public support of the 0.5% sales tax ballot initiative) those who hold the treatment of impounded dogs near and dear to their hearts that the commissioners:
- take the complaints seriously and will investigate them fully,
- address to the public specifically what in their view needs fixing, and
- lay out a plan of action with a timetable to which they can be held accountable to achieve the objectives of the plan.
The larger issue for both the commissioner and the councilpersons is whether they are going to stand their ground on their agenda and timetable or are they going to knuckle under to the Petitioners.
Such typically is the dilemma that government officials, elected or unelected, face when governance goes awry.
Over time, these decision set the tone as to whether or not the general public believes that government is responsive.
So commissioner and council handling of this matter has more at stake that the fate of Phil Sedlacko.