It’s been a tumultuous week for New York City Animal Care and Control (NYCACC). Early in the week, incompetent and inexperienced Operations Director Douglas Boles was fired, reportedly for okaying the killing of a dog that a family was on their way to reclaim.
On Wednesday, Executive Director Julie Bank announced her resignation just a few months into her new contract, citing “family reasons”, which we all know is code for Definitely Not Family Reasons. Did the pressure get to her? The death? Not being allowed to make improvements, or even really try? Did someone ask her to go into the shelters she runs? Julie was reportedly to stay for the transition period to Interim Executive Director Risa Weinstock, NYCACC’s longtime General Counsel, loyalist, and former Interim Director – but I was surprised to see Risa in the Brooklyn shelter today without Julie, unless Julie was hiding in a care area… nahhh, who am I kidding.
— John Sibley (@jbsibley) September 27, 2012
Later in the day today it became clear what Risa was there to do: fire people. She dismissed the Brooklyn Shelter Manager, who will not be missed, but she also fired a longtime and well respected person from the New Hope department, the department that interfaces with rescues and helps to get animals out to them. Why we do not know. [UPDATE 10/1: It appears that the New Hope staffer may have been suspended, not fired. I'm glad they'll still be there.]
Today the Facebook group Urgent Part 2 published a note entitled “The Real Reason Julie Bank Resigned“, but their explanation can’t be the full reason.
Julie Bank did not resign because an underling approved the killing of an owned dog. That person was immediately dismissed, and that would have been all the defense she needed: the responsible party has been fired. Julie Bank did not resign because of pending lawsuits due to the wrongful death of a dog, or a dog biting a member of the public, or even dogs biting multiple members of the public. Shelters carry liability insurance for that sort of thing, and if DoH and city lawyers get involved they could tie up a lawsuit in courts for years. Generally speaking, when a shelter kills a dog by mistake, the resulting lawsuit does not involve a huge payout – the courts typically order a settlement according to the “value” of the dog as a purchased item, not a living being. None of these are reasons for a director to flee. Fire the offending parties, issue your mea culpas, and you’ll survive. NYCACC routinely kills animals by mistake – or tortures them to death by getting them sick and ignoring their treatments, and I’ve documented incidents of both here. It’s business as usual.
The firings at Brooklyn obviously have nothing to do with any of this – Helena was in the Manhattan shelter, as were the reported bite incidents – and if your office is in Park Place and you felt like doing some housecleaning, well, Ellen Curtis and Richard Gentles have offices quite nearby. Why would they not start the housecleaning in Manhattan? The firing of a longtime and effective New Hope staffer is especially curious. Risa Weinstock does not have a history in her previous stint as Interim Director as a crusading reformer, but as a mantainer of the status quo. She is, however, a lawyer…
I could offer some theories, but they would be purely speculative at this point. Gross financial malfeasance, or a major pending criminal investigation. There is much we do not know. If the fired New Hope staffer is reading this, please contact me – I can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to hear your side.
There is reportedly a full staff meeting in Manhattan tomorrow. Word was that today was spent cleaning the Manhattan shelter, removing the hallway cages, transferring animals to the ASPCA, making everything look as good as possible. Are board members visiting? I am expecting more employees to be dismissed before tomorrow’s end of day. Right now this looks a lot more like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic than any sort of catalyst for reform – but one never knows.
UPDATE 9/28: Word is that the Manhattan Volunteer Liason has quit.