Columbia County commissioners voted Tuesday to send members of the county's Animal Care and Control Advisory Board a letter chastising them for "inappropriate behavior."
Initially penned by county Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson and Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker, the letters accuses some members of the advisory board of making rude comments to animal shelter staff, interrupting business at the shelter, interfering with the public in the shelter parking lot, interfering with staff while they're trying to work, and "maligning" Animal Control Manager Linda Fulmer and her staff.
"If inappropriate behavior continues, then the Board of Commissioners will have no alternative but to consider either removing the individual from the Animal Care and Control Advisory Board or abolishing the advisory board entirely," the letter says.
Some language of the letter might change from the draft presented Tuesday to the board as commission Chairman Ron Cross said after the meeting that some wording in it seemed too accusatory, and he wanted to tone it down.
Just one member of the seven-person advisory board spoke at the meeting in their defense.
Mary Ellen Franklin, a two-year member of the advisory board, said many of the accusations made by county officials are aimed at board member Bonnie Whittle, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle's wife. She said that rumors are circulating that the sheriff wants oversight of Animal Control and called the letter "politically motivated."
Franklin also said that county officials owe the advisory board an apology for stating during a July 14 meeting that a board member told an animal shelter patron that she should "put a bullet into the cat's head" rather than bring it to Animal Control.
Franklin said she tracked down the person who made that remark and that it was a Richmond County resident and not a member of the advisory board.
She also called for Ricki Dean, chairwoman of the advisory board, to resign because she believes it should be disbanded, as stated by Dean's son, Commissioner Scott Dean, during the July 14 meeting.
The advisory board has improved conditions at the shelter and helped facilitate better relationships with animal rescue groups and the media, Franklin said.
Franklin said the board's accomplishments during her tenure include profiling shelter animals on petfinder.com, increasing the number of animals listed each week in The Columbia County News-Times , better reporting of Animal Control data, and increased number of rabies clinics.
"The focus of all of us should be on the welfare of the animals," she said.
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