Second try on animal shelter privatization voted down 3-to-1

Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson (L) and Commissioner Steve Brown. File photos.
Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson (L) and Commissioner Steve Brown. File photos.

Backdrop of vote was Brown’s criticism of county administrator

Fayette County commissioners on Feb. 8 took up the issue of the request for proposal (RFP) for the privatization of the county animal shelter. The item requested by Commissioner Steve Brown was also leveled at County Administrator Steve Rapson for acting without authority from the board to release the RFP.

Above, Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson (L) and Commissioner Steve Brown. File photos.

A motion by Commissioner Chuck Oddo to table the item until Chairman Eric Maxwell could be present failed, and the agenda item proceeded.

There were essentially two issues at play, Brown said. One was the release of the RFP without board authority and the other was any action that should be taken as a result.

Brown’s assertion that the RFP was handled improperly gained no traction with the other commissioners.

“Let’s clean up the mess,” Brown said, adding that another RFP for privatizing the animal shelter could be put together with the assistance of animal advocates.

Commissioner Randy Ognio countered, saying staff had the authority and maintaining that the commission has never voted on a RFP release.

“The reason is simple. It’s separation of powers,” Ognio said.

Addressing Brown’s issue about Rapson in September, saying he would follow up with a RFP update for the board on Oct. 26 but not doing so, Ognio said no questions surfaced from Brown at the Oct. 26 meeting.

Ognio also cited County Administrator’s meetings in late 2017 where the issue was discussed.

Rapson then weighed in, surmising that what Brown was saying was that staff acted beyond their authority.

The issue is the scope of services in the RFP, said Rapson, adding, “We’ve never taken a scope of services to the board” in the more than 200 RFPs conducted in the past two years.

It was then that Oddo entered the discussion, uncharacteristically raising his voice and saying of Brown’s comments, “This is totally disingenuous. They have not exceeded their authority since we’ve been here and I’m getting tired of this. (Rapson) can’t trust this group,” Oddo proclaimed.

Brown disagreed, with Ognio stating that county policy does not include the requirement of board approval for releasing a RFP.

“From now on I will ask you to vote on the direction to take for a FRP,” Rapson said.

Commissioner Charles Rousseau later in the meeting noted that Rapson had accomplished the aim of one of the two parts of the agenda item, by clarifying a way forward that would negate confusion or misperception in the future.

Rousseau also had a brief conversation with Fayette County Humane Society representative Stephanie Cohran, who had stated that the RPF guidelines were too strict for her organization.

Asked by Rousseau if she offered recommendations for different language in the RFP, Cochran said, “We didn’t come back with that.”

The second part of the agenda item, one that was woven through the discussion, dealt with soliciting public input for a potential privatization effort.

At the conclusion of the topic and after a number of public comments, Brown’s motion to solicit public opinion on privatization and bringing that input back to the board was defeated on a 1-3 vote.

It was reported in January that there were no responses to the RFP.