It’s one thing to tick off a bunch of activists in your town, but to do so within weeks of the first day to file for office is a very dangerous. I can’t say who I side with on the matter of the Animal Shelter, but believe me when I tell you that these are a very motivated group of citizens. I have recieved about eight emails from different voices in the community about the situation over the last few weeks and they seem not only motivated, but highly organized as well. I wouldn’t be suprised to see at least on candidate on the May ballot from this group, possibly even a full slate. Somebody will be thrown under the bus before February if something isn’t done to make some peace with this organization.
From the Keller Citizen today:
The leader of a group seeking to close the Keller Animal Shelter is crying foul over the city’s handling of its recent petition.
Since Keller Cares 4 Animals filed its 541-signature petition last month, city officials have looked for legal loopholes in order to quash it, said Larry Erdman, the group’s leader. Fueling his suspicions is a recent e-mail that appears to be from an animal control officer who asks for help to “offset” the petitioners’ efforts.
“Personally, it sounds to me like they told their attorney to find some way they could make this whole thing go away,” Erdman said. “By their actions, it appears the city intends to ignore the conditions of the animal shelter. I think they have convinced themselves the people really don’t care, but there are a lot of us who do care.”
The petition sought to force the shelter to close and the city to contract a neighboring municipality for care of stray and abandoned animals from Keller. Erdman organized the effort to correct what he said is inhumane treatment at the shelter, a result of overcrowding and inadequate staffing.
The petition was expected to be declared invalid at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “We have legal reasons that we have to follow,” City Manager Dan O’Leary said Tuesday morning.
Mayor Pat McGrail said he appreciates the concern of Erdman and those who signed his petition but feels the city is not in a financial position to change the operation of the shelter.
“The law says we cannot pass an initiative ordinance that would cause us to spend additional money,” McGrail said. “If we contract the animal services out to another city, we are going to have to spend money. No one is going to take care of our animals for free.”
Officials said they are exploring cost-effective solutions to relieve cramped quarters at the shelter, including partnering with North Richland Hills and Southlake to build and operate a joint shelter. So far, it has been considered too costly of an endeavor.
Raising Erdman’s ire is an e-mail apparently written Friday by animal control officer Doug Shipps which urges support for the shelter.
“All of the facts [Keller Cares 4 Animals] are proposing are not true about the shelter,” according to the e-mail, a copy of which was provided to The Keller Citizen by Erdman. “We are gathering support for the shelter to offset their attempt and to be at the council meeting.”
Erdman said the e-mail, sent from a city account, violates a city policy prohibiting the use of public resources in campaigns. O’Leary said he would “look into the matter,” according to Erdman.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Shipps said shelter employees provide animals with the best possible care and referred all questions to his supervisor, police Lt. Brenda Slovak.
Slovak said, “The e-mail was sent to one person … a choir teacher at South Keller Intermediate School” – not “specific animal rescue groups” as Erdman claimed.
“Each year her classes hold a fundraiser for the Keller Animal Shelter. He sent the e-mail because of that,” Slovak said.
Disputing another of Erdman’s claims, Slovak said animals are not housed in poor conditions and that the state has certified the shelter for at least the past 23 years and found it acceptable.
“The state comes in unannounced once a year to inspect our facility,” Slovak said. “They have always found it acceptable.”
She added that the city has been considering options for improving the shelter for some time and will continue to seek a solution.
Linda Taylor is a special contributor to The Keller Citizen.
In an e-mail sent to petitioner Larry Erdman, Keller City Manager Dan O’Leary listed the following legal reasons for declaring the petition invalid:
State law requires that all signatures on a petition must include the city of residence of the person signing the petition and a number of the signatures do not contain that information leaving the petition short of the required number.
The initiative process in the city’s charter doesn’t allow for an ordinance that would abolish a basic government function.
The initiative process prohibits an initiative ordinance that would compel the expenditure of unknown amounts of money or cause an increase or decrease in the approved city budget.
The next available election date is not until May. The petition calls for an effective date of the ordinance to be January, causing a legal problem for the ordinance because a government cannot pass a law that occurs “after the event.”