Shelter's new gaffe

Published:

It’s late July, people are hot under the collar, dog days are imminent. Must be time for the annual blowup at the Franklin County Humane Society.

Two years ago, it came when the shelter manager misidentified a pedigreed pet dog as a coyote and had police release it into the woods, never to be seen again. The following year, after the society supposedly had turned over a new leaf with a new board, one board member and a volunteer took a plea deal on theft charges after they were accused of abducting a dog they suspected of being mistreated. Board meetings by then had descended into pandemonium, the animal lovers unable to agree how to run operations efficiently while reducing euthanasia. There were mass resignations and new members promised to seek a balance between kindness to animals and consideration for local taxpayers, who contribute $100,000 a year toward the semi-private organization’s handling of animal-rescue duties for the county.

Now a new controversy has arisen, centered on the dismissal of an office assistant, Beth Wallace. She got the news from Sam Marcus, the society’s president, when he visited her in the hospital as she recovered from injuries received in an auto accident. This awkward moment does not directly impact the animal-rescue mission, but it might if it leads to reduced public support for the agency.

Marcus, to his credit, immediately admitted exercising bad judgment in the bedside termination and offered to resign to avoid inflicting another black eye on the organization. The board rejected his offer although it did formally reprimand him.

Exactly why this employee got the ax is unclear. She told State Journal reporter Lauren Hallow that Marcus informed her the decision was based on job performance but he wouldn’t elaborate. Dismissing someone is unpleasant enough without having to explain your reasons. Wallace quoted Marcus as saying she’d have to “talk to Nancy” (Benton, the shelter manager). Of course, that’s what should have happened in the first place. The face-to-face ouster of an individual by the board president is a little like the mayor going around City Hall handing out pink slips – the city’s top elected official is supposed to delegate such responsibilities to the city manager. Top officials should concentrate on policy decisions.

D’Arcy Robb, spokeswoman for the humane society, is worried about repercussions from this incident. Her big fear is that people who normally support the humane society with donations and volunteerism may now be less inclined to do so. “Please,” she implored, “don’t punish the animals for the human’s sake.”

Perhaps no one knows better than Marcus what’s at stake. In a State Journal op-ed commentary four months ago, he noted that the euthanasia rate, estimated at 60 to 80 percent in 2010, had fallen to 12 percent of dogs and 23 percent of cats under current management, but the cost of housing these homeless animals had risen exponentially. “The bad news,” he wrote, “is that by saving the lives of so many animals, our costs of animal care are exceeding the annual revenue of the shelter by about $90,000.”

Negative publicity over a botched personnel action must not overshadow the real embarrassment: that this community still hasn’t found a way to stop killing its surplus pets. The humane society is far from perfect, but the majority of the county’s abandoned animals have few real options.

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  • I think I agree with wbe. A third party should oversee the FCHS. A third party NOT associated w/this town or county--ASCPA just might be the answer. Considering how some of the last "bunch" of Board members, volunteers, staff, and associated rescuers were treated over their "inappropriate behavior(s)," the incident w/Sam Marcus and the fired woman has sure been "glazed" over nicely. I think this time around I will keep my $25 and point it somewhere else.

  • I don't know why anyone would pay. Any real, newsworthy story is unlocked and free on WLEX or WKYT's websites. And they'll unlock the car accidents tomorrow or later down the road - which seems to be their pot 'o gold. LOL. Whatever.

  • Every few months some one mounts a campaign to have the SJ hire a cartoonist who can draw and whose cartoons are comprehensible. So far those complaints have had no impact, and the cartoonist remains as inept and inane as ever. Today's "cartoon" is totally inaccurate and runs counter to the editorial which accompanies it. Just the latest example of why a change is needed. With the doubling of the cost for online edition of the paper, I can make my discontent clear by not renewing. The price increase might be warranted if the material in the SJ were better, but when you raise the price and fail to improve the quality, readers have one logical choice.

  • Speaking of, weren't they supposed to have moved from that location a while ago? Before someone flames me for not keeping up- I have recently returned to Frankfort after being gone for a few years.

  • Kinda makes you wonder if there's not a curse on the land the shelter sits on. Poltergeists? Maybe someone who knows the Bellepoint area can look into that.

  • I think it's less than annual; twice a year at best. I think it's high time that Franklin County relinquish control of it's Humane Society to the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA. It's clear we have no idea how to staff, and therefore run such an operation. This entity has been corrupt since I was a kid when I remember hearing that the Director at that time was stealing food and taking it home for his own animals. And it was probably corrupt before then. For the sake of the animals - give it up.