“After careful review and consideration by the ASPCI Board of Directors, they have voted to reject the counter proposal to the agreement as submitted by you on Sept. 18, 2013,” stated a letter dated Sept. 19 from ASPCI’s attorney Ericka Elzey to city attorney John Rea. “ASPCI is unwilling to compromise its autonomy as a private nonprofit corporation, and they feel that the terms and conditions of the counter-proposal would be detrimental to their ability to continue to operate a successful animal shelter facility.”
Rea provided ASPCI’s contract proposal response to the mayor and City Council at Thursday’s work session.
“ASPCI will cease its operations as an impound facility at 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2013, and therefore will no longer accept animals from the Animal Control officer after that time,” states the ASPCI attorney’s letter. “It is their position that the care and control of all animals in which the statutory seven day hold period has not expired will become the responsibility of the city of Pell City effective Oct. 1, 2013. Please advise me of the city’s plan concerning transition in this matter as soon as possible.”
The city and ASPCI have been at odds about the need for more transparency with ASPCI operations since public funds and taxpayer dollars support the shelter.
ASPCI officials have repeatedly told members of the council that it is a nonprofit corporation and is not subject to the state’s open meetings law.
“ASPCI is not subject to the Alabama Open Meeting Law and is not willing to voluntarily subject itself to this statute, as set out in paragraph fifteen (15) of your proposed agreement,” stated ASPCI’s response to the city’s contract proposal. “However, they have previously agreed to open quarterly board meetings to the public in good faith, and feels that this term should not be included in this agreement.”
City leaders have asked the organization to open all ASPCI meetings and to adhere to the state’s open meeting laws, since the organization receives public tax dollars from the municipality.
The ASPCI Board of Directors had three other objections to the proposed contract.
“ASPCI is not agreeable to surrendering the operational oversight of its organization as proposed in paragraph one (1),” the letter from ASPCI attorneys states.
That section of the proposed contract requires ASPCI to provide the city with certain information about the animals at the shelter.
“ASPCI shall operate the impounding facility and shall receive, care for and dispose of, in a humane manner, all unclaimed animals delivered to it by the city, its agents, employees or designees,” the first paragraph of the proposed contract states. “ASPCI shall provide such information to the city regarding the care, treatment and disposal of said animals as the city many require.”
The ASPCI Board of Directors, through their attorney, said language in the proposal undermines the management of their organization.
“They feel that this language also gives the city operational oversight concerning ASPCI’s obligation to hold and make decisions relating to level of care offered to the strays during the seven (7) day hold period pursuant to Alabama law,” the letter states.
ASPCI officials pointed to paragraph six of the proposed agreement.
Mayor Joe Funderburg said Thursday that since 80 percent of the animals that enter the shelter are euthanized, he thought the city’s effort to reunite a pet with its owner or with someone who might adopt the animal would be welcome by ASPCI.
“… Once the animal is impounded by ASPCI, the city, its agents, employees or designees shall not have any claim to or right of control over any animal not claimed or redeemed after the seven (7) day redemption period (the Redemption Period),” paragraph six of the proposed contract states. “During the Redemption Period., however, the city shall have the right to reclaim any animal delivered to ASPCI by the city, and ASPCI shall obtain the city’s approval for any disposition of an animal delivered to ASPCI by the city during the Redemption Period. …”
City officials said Thursday there was an incident where an animal was euthanized at the direction of a veterinarian, but there was an out-of-state group that wanted to adopt and care for that particular animal. It was found out, after the fact, that the dog had already been euthanized after rescue groups had made arrangements to pick up the animal after the seven-day holding period.
ASPCI also objected to providing documents requested by the city.
“ASPCI has previously provided to the city a monthly animal disposition report, as well as an annual financial summary report,” the ASPCI attorney’s letter states. “ASPCI feels that the language of paragraph thirteen (13), as proposed by the city, is overly broad and could create an undue burden on it and its employees in complying with this paragraph.”
Funderburg said the city wants to know how many animals are brought to the shelter from Pell City and the number of the animals from the city that are adopted or euthanized.
“As soon as practical after the ending to ASPCI’s fiscal year, ASPCI shall provide to the city a financial report for the preceding fiscal year, together with such other reports, documents, and information deemed appropriate by the city,” paragraph 13 of the proposed contract states. “In addition, during the term of this agreement, ASPCI shall provide to the city a financial and activity report, together with such other reports, documents and information deemed appropriate by the city on a monthly basis, or upon request of the city. Nothing contained in this provision shall require ASPCI to provide the city with an audited financial statement.”
Rea said the language in paragraph 13 of the proposed contract is virtually the same as in the original 2002 contract between the city and ASPCI, with the exception of the last sentence, which he said favors ASPCI.
City officials re-emphasized Thursday that the city did not want to go into the animal shelter business.
Rea was directed to make some changes to the proposed contract in an effort to reach a mutual agreement with ASPCI.
City officials also said Thursday that the city has a plan in place to take control of the animal shelter, if ASPCI ceases its operations as stated in two separate letters the city has received from the non-profit corporation.
City manager Patrick Draper told the council financial personnel “crunched numbers,” and he believes the city can maintain a balance budget with the operation of the animal shelter.
“We’re ready to do whatever we can to make a smooth transition,” Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley told the mayor and council Thursday. “We do have a plan.”
City officials have also spoken with a veterinarian for possible services, if the city takes control of the animal shelter.