TN comptroller involved in dogfight over tax money, animal control

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A Facebook page with more than 600 followers is taking Bradley County to task for hiring a certain nonprofit to manage the county’s animal services at a cost of $80,000 a year to taxpayers.

The winning bidder, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, offered a bid that was one-third the cost of its competitor so, technically, taxpayers saved money, right?

Rachel Veazey, spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control For Cleveland/Bradley County NOW, told Tennessee Watchdog tthe SPCA can’t do an adequate job for $80,000.

“You can’t run a shelter for that kind of money. They take in 250 dogs a month,” Veazey said.

Are Bradley County taxpayers sacrificing quality of service by choosing a very low bidder to manage its animal control?

“We are still paying the same amount of taxes we were before, except now, with that amount, we’ll have less coverage and service.”

Regardless of what Veazey thinks about the SPCA’s capabilities, the state comptroller’s office has interjected itself into the situation. Comptroller official Elisha Hodge informed county commissioners last month that in choosing the SPCA they may have violated the state’s sunshine law.

In her letter, Hodge said that a violation only might have occurred — she didn’t specify that it, in fact, had, said County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones.

“We were also supposed to post the notice on the door of courthouse. We didn’t know we were supposed to post it there. We post these online and through the media. It was adequately posted well in advance of when that meeting was supposed to be,” Jones said.

“The way to remedy that sunshine law was to either hold the meeting again or to null and void that meeting and that is what we did. We put a similar resolution back on the agenda to be voted on, and we recommended the SPCA.”

The SPCA contract will replace a contract the county had with Cleveland, one that cost taxpayers in excess of $300,000 a year, Jones said.

Regardless, the county is not just saving money for the sake of getting a lower quality service, Jones said.

SPCA’s competitor didn’t follow certain required guidelines in its application. Additionally, SPCA is a nonprofit and intends to seek donations and hold fundraisers for its work, Jones said.

Charlotte Peak-Jones

“It doesn’t matter how loud Rachel Veazey keeps barking. We’re done with this. We’ll see how this organization handles our animals in the next year, but we’ve got a two-year contract with the SPCA and we will see how they do,” Jones said.

SPCA spokeswoman Beth Foster told Tennessee Watchdog that, in seeking donations and grants, her organization ultimately saves taxpayer money.

“Even we know we can’t run the shelter for $80,000 a year,” Foster said.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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