While members of the Board of Commissioners made several disturbing remarks at its July 13, 2017, meeting, I want to zero in on the vote regarding the euthanasia policy.
I can live with the euthanasia policy approved by the Board of Commissioners, albeit it is not ideal (I have real problems with the 75 percent capacity number). The more disturbing aspect of the commission’s actions was the subversive and unethical aspect of the vote to quash an ordinance that (1) was still being reviewed by attorneys and wasn’t even ready to be presented to the commissioners, (2) was not part of the euthanasia policy and (3) county staff had agreed would be presented as a separate document to the BOC at a future meeting for full discussion by the BOC and input from citizens.
Since the ordinance was the surprise element of the meeting, and most meeting attendees I have talked to have no idea what Commissioner Ognio meant by “The Ordinance,” here’s the scoop:
With Commissioner Brown as meeting facilitator, on June 14 members of animal advocacy groups (me included) met with Mr. Collins (Director of Animal Control) and Mr. Rapson (County Administrator) to review, line by line, proposed changes to the current Animal Control Ordinance. Concessions were made and at the end of a lengthy, conciliatory meeting it was agreed:
1. The Animal Control Ordinance (which covers a broad range of topics) would be reviewed by the county attorney and the animal advocacy’s attorney, just to make certain that our agreed-upon verbiage was enforceable from a legal point of view.
2. Once reviewed by both attorneys, the ordinance would be presented at a Board of Commissioners meeting for comment by the public and a subsequent vote by the commissioners.
3. Everyone agreed that attorney review may take some time. Mr. Rapson pointed out that in order to carry out day-to-day operations at the Animal Shelter, Mr. Collins immediately needed a euthanasia policy to guide him. All parties went along with Mr. Rapson’s suggestion that he and Mr. Collins draft a euthanasia policy to be presented for approval at the July 13 Board of Commissioners meeting — and that the ordinance would be presented to the commissioners at a later date.
As one might expect, meeting attendees were then prepared for the Board of Commissioners to vote on two separate issues on two separate occasions: The Euthanasia policy on July 13 and the animal control ordinance at some point down the road.
Stunningly, that agreement was not honored. Egregiously, after public comments were accepted regarding the euthanasia policy (NOT the ordinance, which was a separate document), Commissioner Ognio made a motion to pass the proposed euthanasia policy with three “modifications,” one of which was to stop progression of the ordinance. Commissioner Oddo quickly seconded it.
I am amazed that no one said, “Wait a minute. What ordinance? I don’t see mention of an ordinance on the agenda.” Those of us who had worked on the ordinance were aghast.
First off, the ordinance, a totally separate document and not related to the euthanasia policy, was not on that night’s meeting agenda and was not up for a vote.
Second, The animal control ordinance (which is what Commissioner Ognio was referring to as “The Ordinance”) was not part of the euthanasia policy, so therefore not subject to being modified.
Third, the fact that putting a stop to the ordinance was slipped into the meeting at a point that did not allow for public comment was despicable. Meeting attendees could not point out that the commissioners were voting on a non-agenda item.
While a suspicious person might see this maneuver as being premeditated, even the most trusting person has good reason to question the move (i.e., why consider the ordinance a part of the euthanasia policy, subject to approval or modification? Why bring up the ordinance issue prematurely and not adhere to agreements outlined in the June 14 meeting? Why mention the ordinance at a point in the meeting when meeting attendees were not allowed to provide feedback?)
I am reeling from the effects of this subversive move on the part of our county servants. The commission’s vote that night sent a powerful message to county constituents: While in theory we citizens have a voice in our government, we should not be naive and think that is always the case. In this instance, for certain, it appears at least one board member was in on a well-orchestrated plan to override a previously agreed-upon plan.
To end on a positive note, I want to thank Commissioner Brown for all the work he put into bringing the various players together. Without his efforts, advocacy representatives would not have achieved as much as they did up to this point. Stay tuned; there’s more to come.
Peachtree City, Ga.