Courtesy of Shelter Reform Action Committee (SRAC)
The Board of Directors of Animal Care & Control of New York City held a board meeting on June 23, 2010. To their surprise, it was standing room only thanks to the public who attended the meeting.
The AC&C has seven Directors on its Board, but only four were present. They did not identify themselves (they never do). However, members from Shelter Reform recognized three of them: Dr. Thomas Farley (the Commissioner of Health), Bruce Doniger, an “Independent” Director, and Dr. Jay Kuhlman (a veterinarian and “Independent” Director). The fourth Director would not identify himself. Among the missing were Adrian Benepe (Commissioner of Parks), Patrick Nolan (an Executive of Penguin Books and Independent Director), John O’Connell (a blood sport hunter and the longest-serving Director), as well as a representative of the Police Department.
Dr. Farley (the new Commissioner of Health and, not incidentally, the new Chairman of the AC&C Board) handed Risa Weinstock a “thank you letter” from Mayor Michael Bloomberg for her services as “Interim” Executive Director for eight months. (Risa Weinstock had briefly served as the AC&C’s general counsel before resigning, and then was asked to return as Interim Executive Director. She had no prior shelter experience.)
Dr. Farley then introduced Julie Bank, the new AC&C Executive Director. He said how fortunate the AC&C was to have a professional with 20 years experience in animal shelters (first at the ASPCA, then in Phoenix, AZ, and finally in California), as well as being a native New Yorker.
In turn, Ms. Bank gave crisp presentation (accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation) of her vision of strengthening and adding to the AC&C’s structure and organization. She praised the AC&C’s “wonderful” staff and rescuers, and described how volunteers give loving care to AC&C animals, and that far more volunteers are needed (particularly in Brooklyn). She noted that the AC&C won a bid for a new five-year contract with the DOH for animal care and control, and the AC&C is awaiting approval “by government” personnel. She mentioned that the AC&C’s budget was “balanced” (more on that later).
Next, a staff member of the Department of Health murmured in an almost inaudible voice a review of a recent AC&C’s audit. A member of BTQ (a high-end accounting firm that counts major charitable organizations as its clients) also murmured softly about the AC&C finances. The Board had absolutely no questions.
It would have been useless for the audience to ask questions: the longtime rule is the Directors will not answer questions posed by the audience. However, the following was audible: the words “balanced budget,” revenues from public adoptions were down, revenues from the DOH are down [caused by the recent budget cuts], and the cost of pension and health benefits for employees was also down. (TRANSLATION: many AC&C employees have left or have been fired, one surefire way to help balance a budget savaged by DOH imposed budget cuts and the loss of adoption fees).
When asked by an audience member whether the AC&C would post the Board minutes and these reports on the AC&C’s website, the Directors looked flummoxed. Breaking their rule about answering questions, they said they would take the request under “advisement.”
The meeting was then opened to public comments. Even though each speaker is restricted to only three minutes floor time, the following speech by former AC&C volunteer and current member of Shelter Reform, Esther Koslow, was read in its entirety because other audience members asked, and were granted, permission to transfer their speaking time to Ms. Koslow. (We can promise you the AC&C Board will never allow that privilege again!)
Among her comments, Ms. Koslow requested the Board to resign and allow experienced and savvy animal advocates and philanthropists on the Board. The Directors did not look happy. Click here to read Ms. Koslow's speech.
Rescuer Patty Adjamine (of New Yorkers for Companion Animals) gave an impassioned speech about how rescuers are suffering under the financial and emotional stress of pulling animals with no adopters or fosters in sight. Ms. Adjamine also deplored the AC&C’s insistence on sugarcoating the truth about rescuers and the conditions at the AC&C shelter buildings. Another audience member criticized the AC&C’s rule forbidding people to cross-post appeals for AC&C animals, and cited that 53,000 animals were killed over the past four years alone.
Two other people were allowed to speak, and yet, when others clamored to be heard, Dr.
Farley declared the public portion of the meeting over, and sent for a policeman to clear