Pell City wanted more transparency about the group’s operations, including a request to open the ASPCI’s board meetings to the public, as the organization used to do. ASPCI board members offered a compromise, in opening one meeting per quarter to the public, and also pledged to improve communications with the city. The City Council agreed to accept a new contract for a year, which leaves the group in charge of shelter and animal control operations. The contract is written to automatically renew unless the council gives ASPCI two months’ notice of cancellation.
The controversy was not about the quality of services provided by ASPCI, but about openness regarding operations and misunderstandings over procedures. The shelter’s paid employees and volunteer board members have focused their efforts on enhancing public safety by sheltering stray animals and finding homes for as many as possible through its operations. They’ve done a commendable job of that, and the group’s big fundraising events — the Fur Ball and Paws in the Park — have become part of community life.
We think Pell City officials acted properly in pressing for more openness about the group’s operations. It’s part of their due diligence in spending taxpapers’ money.
ASPCI’s board members are within their legal rights to close all of their meetings to the public. The compromise they’ve reached won’t please everyone, but at least shelter operations can continue uninterrupted, and both parties will have time to re-evaluate communications with each other.
Taxpayer funding accounts for about 30 percent of operations, and the rest comes through voluntary donations from the public. That speaks well of the group’s reputation and ability to raise funds. It also speaks to the compassion of area residents who are interested in the humane treatment of animals.
Our opinion regarding open meetings hasn’t changed. We still believe non-profit organizations that receive taxpayer funding should open their board meetings to the public that pays those taxes, but current laws do not require it. Neither do they prohibit them from doing so.
For now, Pell City’s compromise with ASPCI looks like a step in the right direction. We’re glad to see it.