Going upstream without a paddle

I would rather see three feet of snow than the freezing rain we had last night.  Setting aside the obvious bit of the higher risk of being hurt when it is so slippery …  are all the other bits that are part and parcel of country life.
If any of us had been hurt, going to either outpatients or the vet clinic would have involved a rollercoaster ride to Berwick on unsalted back country roads!  Assuming of course that outpatients would be open or that the duty vet could make it in!
Mind you …. nothing that Mother Nature ever dishes out can hold a candle to the slippery slope that the Cape Breton Mayor and Council have been on since the results of the first unannounced inspection ever precipitated the escalating scenario with the Sydney shelter.
If Facebook was documenting this, there would be a timeline that would likely look something like this:

  • November 14th – The provincial board of the society votes to disband the Cape Breton Branch Board of Directors and to dismiss the shelter manager, Ms Patsy Rose.
  • November 16th – Acting on behalf of the provincial board, the society ED travels to Sydney to serve notice of termination to the Shelter Manager and the disbanded board.  Advance notice is given to the CBRM Police Department in the anticipation that the situation might escalate so that their services might be required.  When the ED arrives, the dismissed shelter manager locks herself in her office and within a very brief period of time the lawyer for the disbanded board arrived on site and asked the ED to leave the premises.   The CBRM police determine that this was a civil matter and leave the premises.  It should also be noted that Animal Control falls under the Police Department.
  • Nov 17th – The results of the (unaddressed) 2011 Shelter audit are made public.  The dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board have locked the public out of the shelter and hired a security guard to control access through the locked gate.
  • November 18th – CBRM Mayor decides to intervene in the dispute and commission two local veterinarians to perform a second audit of the shelter.  On this date the society takes the next legal step and issues a Letter of Demand to vacate the premises to the dismissed shelter manager and the disbanded board.  At this time, Nova Scotia SPCA Announces that it is seeking Candidates for Cape Breton Board of Directors
  • November 21st – The deadline on the Letter of Demand passes at noon on this day.  
  • November 22nd – The Nova Scotia SPCA issues a media release that the Cape Breton Branch has been formally dissolved
  • November 24th – The results of the CBRM Shelter Audit are published.  The Mayor and Council expressed concern but still enabled the disbanded board by magically allowing them to assume the Animal Control that had been signed with the SPCA.
  • November 25th – The disbanded board issue a press release through their lawyer to state that they will be seeking a new shelter manager and that another board member has assumed the role of board president.  The dismissed shelter manager is still employed at the shelter in an “administrative position”
  • November 28th –  The Society makes public the original Memorandum of Association Agreement for the Cape Breton Branch.  Letters of warning are sent by their legal counsel to members of the disbanded and other related parties.  A deadline of noon on November 30th is given for compliance.  The disbanded board responds with a legal warning letter of their own to the provincial ED, forbidding her access to the Sydney Shelter. 
  • November 29th – Mr Mombourquette, acting chair for the reinvented and renamed disbanded board, announces on CTV news that it is a shame to have to spend donor dollars on legal costs.
  • December 8th – Nova Scotia SPCA starts Court proceeding .  At the same time, in response to accusations that the ED has “cut off free IAMS food” for the Sydney Shelter, a public statement reveals that the (then) CB Branch ordered excessive amounts.  A spokesperson for the renegade shelter admits there is at least a 4 month stockpile on hand.
  • December 17th – The CBRM Mayor and Council meet with the disbanded board for a report on the status of the action items in the CBRM Shelter Audit.   Mayor Gordon tells the Chronicle Herald that he has “assumed the role that the province would normally be responsible for“.   At this time, Mr Mombourqette is quoted  in the Cape Breton Post that “the board has completed 16 of the report’s recommendations and the remainder are currently being addressed by the board”.
  • December 18th – Dr Richardson, a retired veterinarian, delivers a report to a special meeting with CBRM Mayor and Council.  Council decides not to debate the report until after the court date for the injunction hearing.
  • December 19th – The Cape Breton Post reveals that the CBRM Mayor and Council are no longer interested in assuming the provinces role and will “only discuss issues involving its contract with the shelter to enforce the dog bylaw, and stay away from animal welfare issues.”
  • January 19th – An interim injunction restores control of the Sydney Shelter to the society.  Following that, the ED and the disbanded Board Chair met with the staff at the shelter that, with the exception of the Shelter Manager, all staff would have the opportunity to keep their jobs.
  • January 20th – One paid staff member shows up for work.  The remainder call in sick. 
  • January 23rd – The society releases the Preliminary Report on the state of the shelter.   At the same time it is announced that the shelter will temporarily be closed to all intake other than AC, owing to the need to facilitate repairs and the shortage of trained staff.
  • January 27th – The ED tells The Cape Breton Post that she is thrilled by the level of generosity and support from the community for the shelter.  The same article also reveals that  the shelter account is in a $6,000.00 deficit … and that the society cannot be paid for the AC work being provided until the disbanded board members sign off on the contract.
  • February 1st -In the  The Cape Breton Post, readers learn that the society still has not been paid for AC Services.  Only one AC officer has continued to come to work, and it is revealed that the municipality sat on the paperwork necessary to hire a second AC officer for over a week.  At the same time, Mayor Gordon expresses concern that the SPCA will not be able to fulfill their duties with only one AC officer.  Much emphasis is placed  by the Mayor as to whether legal concerns will even allow them to pay the SPCA at all.   No explanation is offered by the Mayor as to why a contract in the SPCA name was transferred to the renegade shelter following the dissolution of the branch

It is rare to see such blatantly circular logic so publicly expressed by an elected official.    One has to wonder what it it WILL take for the CBRM Mayor and Council to admit that this is not a situation created by anyone from ‘away’. 
Who complained about the state of the shelter?  Why it was taxpaying CBRM voters of course!   Who is donating supplies and services?  CBRM taxpaying business owners of course!   When the society advertised for applicants for a new shelter Board of Directors, who were the twenty who applied?  Gosh, golly, gee!   It was all CBRM taxpaying residents of course!
What time is it?   It is way, way past time for the CBRM Mayor and Council to realize that it is never, ever in the best interests of elected officials to work against the best interests and best wishes of the taxpaying voters who elected them!
from The Cape Breton Post
SPCA demands payment from CBRM
Chris Shannon

Published on February 1, 2012
SYDNEY — The Nova Scotia SPCA is prepared to withdraw animal control services in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality on Friday if it doesn’t receive $20,000 it’s owed for services rendered.
Following the successful court injunction application Jan. 19, the SPCA took control of the Cape Breton shelter from the Cape Breton Humane Society.

Nova Scotia SPCA executive director Kristin Williams said Wednesday a payment expected in the shelter’s bank account on Jan. 20 wasn’t deposited.
She said the provincial SPCA branch gave $10,000 for the operation of the shelter on East Broadway Street in Whitney Pier. However, one of the shelter’s bank accounts remains $6,000 in overdraft.
On top of the shelter’s money woes, there is currently only one animal control officer working. Two other officers have been off sick since the Nova Scotia SPCA takeover two weeks ago.
“If we do not receive payment in a timely manner — and I think probably by the end of this week— I’m going to need to make a decision as to whether or not we can continue to provide those services without payment,” Williams said.
The services include collecting stray and dangerous dogs and licensing, which are part of animal control under the CBRM’s dog bylaw.
Last weekend, the SPCA suspended animal control over two days because it only had the one animal control officer.
Williams said the municipality has held up the process of hiring a second officer by failing to sign off on paperwork in a reasonable amount of time.
“They just signed off on the appointment (Wednesday) and it’s been with them for nearly a week.”
The Nova Scotia Department of Justice must sign off on the paperwork to give the animal control officer official authorization to seize animals, and Williams said it may take up to a week or more before the SPCA gets word from the department that it can appoint a second officer.
A section in the contract allows the shelter to address a staffing shortage in the event circumstances arise beyond its control.
“Certainly, having two of three animal control officers not available for work because they are sick constitute circumstances beyond our control,” Williams said.
CBRM Mayor John Morgan said municipal staff has some concerns the SPCA can’t fulfil the contract with only one bylaw enforcement officer at work.
He said the municipality’s hands are tied until its solicitors receive the written order.
“The court can make a number of different determinations as to how money is paid pending the final decision,” Morgan said.
“For example, one mechanism could be that (the order) simply says all money is to be paid to Nova Scotia SPCA, or it could order the money to be paid into a trust. There’s a number of different variations as to what the order may say in terms of how the payments are to be made.
“Our legal department … hasn’t arrived at the conclusion that it shouldn’t be paid. I think they are simply waiting for that order to make sure that they are making the payment in the way the court has directed.”
But it does seem to be taking longer to obtain the written order in this case, he added. It normally takes one to two weeks following a judge’s oral decision before the written order is carried out, Morgan said.
The ruling is only an interim measure with both sides now proceeding to trial to more thoroughly address some of the issues raised during the injunction application.
Improper intake procedures, incidents of animals not receiving proper and immediate medical attention, and concerns over proper cleaning methods were among the issues raised during the court hearing.
Williams said she feels there’s been a “double-standard” at play since November when the former board of directors refused to move out and renamed the shelter the Cape Breton Humane Society.
She said at that time the CBRM was willing to co-operate and continued to fund the contract even though it was legally under the name of the Cape Breton SPCA.
“We are continuing services in good faith and our expectation would have been they would have continued payment in good faith as well,” Williams said.
“It appears a greater level of scrutiny is being afforded to this situation of us reassuming our obligations under the contract. I can’t say for sure but I don’t believe the same level of attention was afforded to the Cape Breton Humane Society when they took over the contract from us for that interim period.
The SPCA’s contract to enforce the municipality’s dog bylaw expires March 31, and Morgan said he expects the tendering process for a new contract to begin within a few weeks.
cshannon@cbpost.com

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