Audit of ASPCI could come soon
by Elsie Hodnett
Jun 13, 2013 | 2107 views |  0 comments | 139 139 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — The issue raised by St. Clair County municipalities regarding audits at the Animal Shelter of Pell City Inc. may reach a resolution soon.

“Recently, the Executive Board of Directors for the ASPCI requested a meeting with Patrick Draper, city manager of Pell City, to notify the city of our intent to update the contract that has been in effect since 2002,” ASPCI Board President Barbara Wallace said. “In that meeting, it was suggested by officials of Pell City that we have an annual audit performed and pro rate the expense among all client municipalities of the shelter, as well as the county.”

ASPCI Treasurer Jo Mitchell said the shelter contracts with St. Clair County, Pell City, Ashville, Argo, Margaret, Odenville, Springville, Ragland, Riverside and Lincoln. Moody and Leeds contract for animal control services elsewhere.

“We embraced the concept suggested in our meeting in Pell City, as we are in favor of an audit,” Wallace said. “The only objection we have ever had is where to get the funding for an audit without taking away from animal care.”

Wallace said Pell City’s recommendation would solve that problem.

“We plan to move forward with contract negotiations with each municipality and the county and ask for a pro rata share of the cost of doing an audit from each,” she said. “Based on estimates obtained last year when we looked at this, the cost of an audit for a nonprofit our size is approximately $10,000. We recently reconfirmed and the current quote for an audit is approximately $10,000.”

Wallace said the ASPCI also intends to look into what the contracting municipalities would want by way of reports and put that in the contracts as well.

“We will be in contact with the different client municipalities as soon as we can get meetings set up,” she said. “We will speak with each municipality on a case-by-case basis.”

Riverside Councilman Bill Cantley said in June 2012 that he was selected to serve as Riverside’s liaison to the ASPCI.

“I emailed the director (former ASPCI Board President Helen Powell), requesting access to shelter reports involving the city of Riverside to gain more insight into specifically how tax dollars were being spent at the shelter,” he said.

Cantley said his requests were not acknowledged and he attended an ASPCI meeting in June 2012.

“I was allowed to sit at the meeting for a few minutes, but was told that I would have to leave because they were going to discuss financials,” he said. “Again in August 2012, I went to another monthly meeting of the ASPCI. I was then informed they would be changing the articles of incorporation to reflect that all meetings would be closed from here on out.”

Cantley said after continued efforts to obtain access to shelter reports for the city of Riverside, he was informed by the city clerk that someone from the shelter called seeking to confirm his status as a council member.

“I finally reached the (former) director by phone and was informed that they would not send a report out to an email address that was not an official city email address, even though those reports were sent to Mayor Rusty Jessup and City Clerk Rhonda Johnston by private email addresses (yahoo.com and msn.com),” he said.

Cantley said when he received the reports from Jessup and Johnston, the totals appeared misleading because they included animals surrendered to the shelter as well as animals picked up by an animal control officer that Riverside contracts services from through Pell City.

“The city is only paying for impounded animals, not owner-surrendered animals,” he said. “I haven’t seen an end-of-year report for 2012 yet, however, that may be due to ASPCI Board of Director changes that occurred at the first of the year.”

Cantley said for the 2011 end-of-year report, there were only 32 animals picked up by the animal control officer for violation of the state’s rabies certificate law.

“We pay more than $3,400 each year, so that’s a cost of more than $100 per animal, not including the fees of time and mileage we incur for our contract with the animal control officer,” he said.

Cantley said the 2010 end-of-year report showed that 97 animals were picked up for a cost of approximately $36 per animal.

“This is the type of information I have been seeking, and I was wondering why it was so hard to get the information from a group that has collected more than $35,000 from the city of Riverside over the past 10-plus years,” he said.

Cantley said he recently found out about the change in ASPCI administration, but did not know who to contact.

“I look forward to future dealings with the new ASPCI administration,” he said.

Wallace recently addressed the issue of closed meetings.

“ASPCI is a nonprofit corporation and is not required to conduct open meetings,” she said. “ASPCI Board of Director’s meetings are related to specific business matters, the same as any corporation. If there is an issue that has gone through normal channels and requires Board of Directors attention, anyone can request to be on the agenda for a specific item. I have been president since Jan. 1, 2013, and have not received a request from anyone to be included on our agenda.”

Wallace said as of Thursday, she still had not received a request from anyone to be included on the ASPCI agenda.

St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said in accordance with the Code of Alabama, the county furnishes a pound for municipalities under 5,000 population and all unincorporated parts of the county.

“Our impoundment officer is our rabies officer,” he said. “We are complying with what the law says.”

Batemon said in addition, the county also furnishes an animal control officer to assist municipalities and residents in unincorporated areas in the county.

“Our animal control officer assists municipalities when the municipality requests assistance through St. Clair County Central Dispatch, but the municipality must request the assistance and provide an employee designee to accompany him,” he said. “Residents in the unincorporated areas may call Central Dispatch for assistance.”

Batemon said Riverside is not responsible for paying for the pound portion of operational costs (for animals brought in violation of the state’s rabies certificate law), because that funding is provided by the county.

“We pay that portion for every municipality under 5,000 population,” he said. “However, we are not running an animal control program for municipalities.”

Batemon said the municipalities that utilize the county’s animal control officer do so through St. Clair County property manager Harold Hoyle, who oversees building maintenance, upkeep and animal control issues.

Batemon said the ASPCI has provided the County Commission with several accountability reports.

“We have been happy in the past with what they send us with budget requests,” he said. “We haven’t seen this year’s yet because it is still early.”

Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup said as he understands it, under the Code of Alabama a small municipality Riverside’s size is under no legal obligation to fund an impoundment facility.

“For the past 10-plus years, we have funded the ASPCI to the tune of about $3,500 a year because I assume we desire to be good community citizens and support the local animal shelter,” he said. “With those thoughts in mind, and with the current economic situation, we will have to carefully consider any new contract presented. While we are not ruling out the possibility of entering into a new contract with the ASPCI, the council and I need to make sure it is money well-spent.”

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.