Sunday, May 31, 2015

Will New Castle County Auditor's Shelter Get State Bailout ???

There have been a number of articles recently regarding the questionable actions of New Castle County Auditor Bob Wasserbach in recent weeks, and a couple of discussions at New Castle County Council meetings.

New Castle County legal teams clash over making auditor emails public
"Grimaldi and Councilman Bob Weiner contend the emails are ethically questionable and potentially criminal. Wasserbach said he's done nothing wrong."

Weiner calls for investigation into Wasserbach
"The emails indicate Wasserbach was in discussions to have the county contract altered to benefit Faithful Friends.
Wasserbach has denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to requests to comment for this story." 

Attacks become norm in New Castle County government
"Grimaldi also cited Wasserbach's 2012 audit of the Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which Grimaldi said was self-serving. Wasserbach was a board member of the Faithful Friends Animal Society, a no-kill shelter. The KCSPCA did not have a no-kill policy."

Handing out swords along with audits 
"Unfortunately, for him, Mr. Wasserbach appears to have given his enemies the sword. He now faces an inquiry into a previous audit he conducted. Serious issues have been raised about his personal interest in the outcome of the 2013 audit of Kent County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Mr. Wasserbach was on the board of another animal shelter group, Faithful Friends Animal Society. The two groups, let us say, have philosophical differences.
It would appear Mr. Wasserbach should not have been involved in this audit. We will leave it to the appropriate investigators to determine whether he did anything wrong."

Sadly the New Castle County Council has talked about it, but in the end have chosen to do nothing about it, so we clearly see them as enabling the situation.  I can't imagine anyone will take the audits performed by New Castle County going forward seriously, as they will be questionable at best given the emails that have surfaced, so I'm not even sure why the county should bother to have an audit department at this point.

Since these stories were printed, there has been a letter to the editor campaign by some of the very people that were involved in the emails involving the  plotting and planning of the KCSPCA audit for over 2 years, and they are using those letters to once again attack the shelter.

As stated on some of our comments on those articles, our intent wasn't to harm other shelters, but to stop the insider politics and preferential treatment that is occurring in Delaware, with the ultimate goal to harm First State Animal Center and SPCA (previously known as KCSPCA).  We want the public to support the shelter of their choice, even shelters whose tactics we don't respect, because ultimately the animals in those shelters depend on that support. Which is another reason we find it amazing that anyone would take part in a hate campaign for ideology sake like we've seen against FSAC.

But given the continuing orchestrated attacks by supporters, and more importantly insiders of Faithful Friends, against FSAC for bringing the issue to light, we do think the public needs to understand what is potentially driving these attacks.

Not only were the attacks in recent years part of an agenda for Nathan Winograd's "No-Kill", but they were also in part due to the fact that "No-Kill" in Delaware needed to destroy the competition so they could drive up the prices of the county dog control contracts first, so dog control could eventually provide their own "No-Kill" shelters with a financial lifeline.

We all saw how quickly Safe Haven crashed and burned, even with the planning that ensured that the highest contract per population was acquired to give them the best opportunity at success.  But they weren't the only "No-Kill" in Delaware that was teetering financially.

Since CAPA was enacted, Faithful Friends has not only had financial concerns, but also faced multiple judgments by the Delaware Department of Labor.  The first for $21,029.31 that was filed on June 14, 2011 and not paid until March 5, 2014, taking them several years to pay.  But now they are facing an even larger judgment filed in recent weeks for $88,544..45 that was filed on May 12, 2015.

Why is this important?  
  • Because when you look at Faithful Friend's most recent financial statement, this does bring to question their solvency as a result of the above judgment.  

  • It also makes you wonder why New Castle County Council would think Mr. Wasserbach was competent to do an audit of another shelter when his own shelter clearly lacks in their ability to to manage their business, and more importantly manage their liabilities?  Remember, this is the second judgment that Faithful Friends has faced, and the first one took years to finally pay.  
  • Lastly, this also speaks to motive in Mr. Wasserbach's and friends in their attempts to attack FSAC (KCSPCA) with an audit that even some of the county council thought was beyond the scope of what should be audited by the county, which as a result became another tool in the arsenal in their attempt to get KCSPCA out of the picture from a competition standpoint. 
Some of Mr. Wasserbach's very own emails from his county email account show just how concerned he was with his own shelter's financial condition during the period the audit was taking place, which also speaks to potential motive.

So it was no surprise when we saw that the Office of Animal Welfare and Senator Blevins are proposing a plan which sounds much like what Faithful Friends had discussed with Kent County when Safe Haven was faltering. Obviously this will bring funds into their shelter, without the risk of euthanasia that a shelter faces when they become full with a dog control contract.  

I thought the clause about returning difficult to adopt dogs was ironic.  So send back the difficult to adopt dogs so someone else could kill and keep their own statistics clean?  Talk about a shell game.  

Word on the street is that legislation will be proposed in the upcoming week, despite the fact that the state's budget is still $83 million in the hole, even before this new legislation that would require more spending.  So even if the Senator Blevins manages to put this late spending initiative on the short remainder of the legislative year, which is how they always make sure the public has less opportunity to examine and publicly comment, there continues to be a whole lot of unanswered questions that counties should clearly be asking:
  • When shelters run out of room, where will the state send dogs?  And what will that cost the county taxpayers?
  • Will the counties be paying for dogs to go to multiple kennels until a space opens up at a shelter like we saw with Safe Haven?  Won't that obviously drive up the costs of dog control for the counties?
  • Will the counties be the ones forced by the state to decide which dogs will die, and as such be the target of the "No-Kill" movement? 
  • If a dog is picked up in Sussex and ends up at a New Castle County shelter, how will residents ever find their dogs, or even access them if they don't have transportation for that long of a trip?
  • Considering the county auditors actions and that of Senator Blevins, does anyone really think that dogs will be disbursed to the various shelters fairly?  
  • Or will some shelters get the cute fluffies because of their favored status, while others get the hard to adopt ones which cost them more in the long run and harming their financial solvency?Will it depend on whether they have favor with Senator Blevins at any given point?
  • And if there's no additional space left to place dogs in shelters, will counties face what Kent County did during the Safe Haven mess where dogs were left on the streets when Safe Haven didn't respond to residents dog at-large complaints?
  • Lastly, what happens if this all falls apart lie we saw with Safe Haven?  What will the counties alternatives be once FSAC has laid off their employees and liquidated the excess equipment?
So in the end, it does appear that this plan is not only a means to expand the unfunded mandate on the counties, but it also appears to be a financial bailout of Faithful Friends.  And with so many questions about sustainability, aren't we just going down the same foolish path that occurred when Safe Haven took on the Kent County Contract?

Also, using taxpayer dollars to bailout legislator friends is not fair to the taxpayers either, when so many of them also have pets that it costs to care for, which is getting harder every day with the state adding more taxes and fees.  

The answer is to get rid of CAPA, get REAL shelter standards that ensure proper care of animals, and then bring everyone to the table to address the pet overpopulation that we all know is at the heart of the problem.

In the end, the only thing the FSAC, and those of us that have defended them, are guilty of is being upfront with counties as far as costs and not taking part in the collusion with Senator Blevins and friends.  If the state truly believed that "No-Kill" was a viable and sustainable business model, then they wouldn't have pawned off dog control costs to the counties just before they passed CAPA, and they would have supported it themselves without the need for CAPA.  But they didn't, and that speaks for itself. 

Sadly, I don't doubt that Senator Blevins has the power to shove her legislation down everyone's pocket, and if that power gives her satisfaction, then so be it.  Her conscience has to live with her actions.

But if she actually cares about animals, and not just shelter statistics and the "No-Kill"agenda, then it's time to come up with a solution that is fiscally responsible, financially sustainable, and doesn't require the pathetic political games to put a nonprofit "underwater" that have now become her legacy. She can change that legacy if she wanted, but it will never happen with underhanded tactics and collusion.  It can only happen with transparency and collaboration.

And while we will never see justice done in Delaware because there are apparently too many who are afraid of our Senate President to call her out or enforce laws that prevent collusion, we are still hopeful that each and every piece of legislation and action that clearly benefits her friends will eventually draw the attention of federal law enforcement. especially since the actions that have taken place have clearly had an impact beyond our state lines when you look at the many victims of the Safe Haven mess that was enabled by their actions.

It will be interesting to see what legislation is put forward, but the fortunate part of all this is that Delaware residents have had an opportunity to see what "the Delaware Way" truly means.  We all heard the sighs at the Kent County Levy Court when the decision was made to drop the Safe Haven contract, so we know that the public gets it now.  But apparently our politicians don't represent the majority.  Instead they represent the vocal minority that support their own personal agendas, and that's not only a sad legacy for those involved, but also a sad legacy for our state.