Tingle: Transparency and Oversight Continue to Plague County Leadership

Rose Tingle with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva

“Orange County is truly a leader in innovative projects and partnerships………..”

This is a statement from the website of the Association of California Cities, Orange County.

I wish it were true!

In the case of animal care and services, Orange County earns a “C-” on being innovative and partnering. If it were not for the Irvine city animal shelter or Mission Viejo city animal shelter, Orange County would earn a “D”. In fact, it’s embarrassing that Orange County with such wealth currently and apparently thinks so little of living sentient beings and I would be amiss if I didn’t say “God’s Creation.”

It took years of advocacy, five Orange County Grand Jury Reports, Performance Audit and lawsuits before the OC Board of Supervisors finally moved to replace the single county animal shelter, which is 76 years old, and began to take actions to correct its unhealthy conditions. The replacement county shelter is finally under construction in Tustin and estimated time of completion is end of 2017.

BUT the problem still remaining is currently there is NO legitimate oversight of the county animal shelter, EXCEPT by many of the people who allowed it to become such a sad example of lack of concern and dilapidated in the first place!

Our meetings with several of the supervisors on the issue of oversight have proved fruitless.

Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett says, “Trust us.”

When county CEO Frank Kim was newly appointed, he was actually the individual who pushed for action to allow construction of the new county animal shelter but he has continued to dig his heels in the ground concerning oversight.

During the last 9 years, and while the shelter was receiving the Grand Jury Reports etc., the FOAB or Financial Operations Advisory Committee (which has been renamed City Managers Association Animal Care Committee) met monthly with county shelter officials as “representatives” of the cities which contract with the county for animal shelter and animal control services. An animal shelter Community Outreach Committee, with Supervisor appointed district representatives, allows 3 minutes for public members to speak.

Hardly collaboration or partnership.

The committee is made up of mostly assistant city managers, but since no minutes are taken and the public is not allowed, I refer to it as a “clandestine committee.”

A list of committee members, obtained through a public records request, can be viewed here. Anaheim’s Dave Belmer and “quasi” chairman of the committee, asserts in his letter of May 18, 2017 “it was the consensus of the contract cities not to allow public attendance and participation.” But I have yet to confirm this indeed is what the city councils have decided.

It appears to me the county Board of Supervisors and the CMAACC members are fearful of transparency when our intention is for “partnership” and collaboration. In my opinion, the meetings are a misuse of taxpayer funds as it is obvious the city representative were not sufficiently knowledgeable on animal welfare and/or did not care enough to improve the egregious conditions at the shelter during the 8 years they met and continue to meet.

The Board of Supervisors awarded a contract to JVR Shelter Strategies for consultation services…. and their report is not surprising.

Constituents have been complaining about management and leadership and this is what a JVR report sheds light upon. Cited in JVR’s report are such things as “lack of clarity surrounding the organization’s mission and goals” and “staff choosing policies that may be counter to community’s interests” and “lack of team cohesion in the senior management and leadership which has led to policies and processes not being followed as written” and “poorly functioning organization which has led to resistance to change and manifests as staff resistance” and on and on. JVR has been called in before but recommendations were not implemented…………….primarily because there was no appropriate oversight.

While constituents very much appreciate and look forward to the one new county animal shelter, it is very apparent it will only solve half of the problems. Knowledgeable stakeholders need to have a “seat at the table” of these meetings in order to collaborate and have oversight.

It took literally decades to move the county board of supervisors to build a new county animal shelter, but we cannot and shall not wait that long to gain the much needed oversight. Animal advocates claim there is still poor leadership, false data, deception and animals killed for ridiculous reasons, even when there are empty cages. According to James Serpell, professor of Animal Ethics and Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania, people who kill animals regularly become progressively desensitized. They sometimes employ a mechanical attitude and no longer have any emotions about the job.

So what else could be done than to elevate the issue of oversight?

I felt it useless to meet with the California State Assembly and Senate members who were former Orange County Board of Supervisors. Considering the 76 year old animal shelter for which they were at one time responsible, I did not believe they would take positive action on this issue of oversight by stakeholders.

In addition, I discovered California State Assembly member, Matt Harper, District 74, apparently ignored requests to vote yes on the recent humane California bill, AB485, which will help end the notorious “puppy mills.” I was shocked to view the video of Harper speaking on the Assembly floor. I found it embarrassing to watch him as he pandered only to “inhumane” businesses and chose to ignore the grief stricken pet guardians (owners) and their huge veterinary bills after purchasing a puppy from a pet store. Even his former Huntington Beach city council colleagues already banned the “puppy mill” pet stores from their city.

(Stores that sell commercially raised puppies adhere to an outdated and socially unacceptable business model, and are detached from their own industry. I appreciate and patronize local businesses but never one which is complicit in animal cruelty. In spite of Harper, AB485 passed the Assembly and is now headed for the State Senate. The bill is endorsed by Best Friends, Humane Society of the U.S. and ASPCA. If you care about humane treatment of animals and good business ethics, ask your own representative to support this bill by clicking here)

Therefore, on June 16, I met with a representative who has an excellent record of voting for animal protection bills, California Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva, District 65.

She gets it!

Silva was professional and receptive.

She stated when serving on the Fullerton City council, she was not made aware of the FOAB meetings and that city councils should always be made aware of all of their meetings.

“We must bring to light how we manage and operate our animal shelters. The public must be included in this discussion” Silva stated. “I will do everything I can to make sure our public has a seat at the table.”

It would be naïve to think Orange County is alone in not providing the appropriate animal services. Currently the California Department of Food and Ag- Animal Health Branch does not have a program to oversee animal shelters.

Therefore, we would like to see a bill introduced into California legislation which would require independent and stakeholder oversight of animal shelters. The government too often addresses the effect of a problem, when it would be more productive and cost saving to address the cause instead.

Rose Tingle is an animal rights advocate and longtime Orange County resident.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

  • Valerie Bromberg

    “it is the consensus of the contract cities not to allow public attendance and participation.”
    This is a county run facility, not a private corporation. Banning public attendance is not the prerogative of the contract cities, even IF the contract cities do not wish to be transparent.
    Weren’t five scathing and humiliating Grand Jury Reports enough to let the power mongers know they cannot hide their dirty secrets in private meetings?
    You were elected or chosen to be leaders and or public servants, not self appointed dictators who do not want input but only value your own opinion.

    • Jean Einum-Bland

      Thank you Valerie, I could not have said it better!

  • Tina Van Rikxoord

    I’d say a C- is overly generous. I would rate them an F-. OC Animal Shelters need to be converted to No Kill and the horrible woman that oversees them needs to fired for allowing the murder of so many innocent beings under her “care”. The goal is not empty kennels, it is homes for homeless animals. Yet so oftern their kennesl are empty because they have just murdered the animals instead of making an effort to find them homes. The behavior of the employees at OCAC is appalling and disgusting and inexcusible.

  • Jean Einum-Bland

    A huge thank you to Rose Tingle for being so clear and honest re. the OC Animal Shelter’s performance. I’ve been following the Orange County Animal Shelter’s performance and statistics since 2003 and the only clear and honest report I have ever seen, from the County of Orange, related to the Orange County Animal Shelters actual performance, was written by Philip Cheng, the Orange County Performance Auditor in 2015. Please click on the web address below and look at this report for yourselves. The Performance Audit of Orange County Animal Care done by Philip Cheng, the Orange County Performance Audit Director – Final Report on March 24, 2015

    http://cams.ocgov.com/Web_Publisher/Agenda03_24_2015_files/images/O00315-000276A.PDF

    Included in this 108 page Audit are 34 Recommendations for the County Animal Shelter – including the following “FINDING” on page 94.

    1. Euthanasia Observations:

    a. Identification of animals was not done immediately prior to euthanasia

    b. Animals were not weighed before euthanasia

    c. Verification of death after euthanasia was not performed

    • LFOldTimer

      Yes, you are correct. Mr. Cheng’s report was full of truth and honesty. In fact, so much truth and honesty that he was forced to resign his position as Auditor Director shortly after his Orange County Animal Care report was published.

      Honesty in county government is simply not tolerated. lol.

      • Jean Einum-Bland

        OH, NO!! I did not know this. I was so proud of Mr. Cheng for being so clearly transparent but I wondered if he would receive any blow back being so honest. I never heard anything re. the loss of his job, so hoped that someone like him was finally respected as an advocate for honesty and clarity. I will try to find more information online related to what reasons were given for his resignation, but I doubt I will ever find the truth published by anything other than a purely independent investigation. Thank you for letting me know.

        • LFOldTimer

          Here you go. VOC article date April 22, 2015 – less than one month after Mr. Cheng published his Orange County Animal Care report. Connect the dots.

          Truth and honesty has its consequences in county government.

          http://voiceofoc.org/2015/04/supervisors-fire-countys-performance-auditor/

          • Jean Einum-Bland

            The Final Report of the Performance Audit of Orange County Animal Care by Philip Cheng was dated March 24, 2015 and Cheng was fired one month later on April 21, 2015. There was no mention of this County Animal Care Audit report in the news related to the firing of Cheng and that is especially interesting because the County Shelter Audit is a very appropriately aggressive audit, which is exactly what the County Supervisors accused Cheng of failing to produce when they fired him?

          • LFOldTimer

            That’s correct. The BoS claimed that Cheng was not aggressive enough on the Housing Authority investigation; however there was another criminal investigation running concurrently and naturally Cheng didn’t want to step on their toes or duplicate their efforts so he audited a completely different part of the operations. Cheng’s findings didn’t fulfill the supervisor’s expectations so they jumped down his throat. Makes you wonder who was running the Performance Auditor’s Office? The Auditor Director or the BoS?

            Then, as you noted, Cheng produced a very aggressive investigative report on Orange County Animal Care and a month later the supervisors fired him!!! lol. Go figure. Damned if you don’t and damned if you do.

            Cheng was caught in a no-win position. Either way he turned he was screwed.

            The Performance Auditor’s Office is supposed to be INDEPENDENT of the supervisor’s influence. Obviously it wasn’t.

            Just like the Office of Independent Review wasn’t – and just like the Ethic’s Commission won’t be.

            County government is a corrupted scam.

            Not hard to connect the dots.

          • Jean Einum-Bland

            LF OldTimer – Thanks for your input. I have to agree with you. My opinion, after thoroughly reading the literature for voting as well as everything else I could find, is that the Ethic’s Commission is a joke. There is no Transparency for voters so apparently there does need to be an effort to require transparency, on many levels, at least in Orange County.

          • LFOldTimer

            Pass it on to Shirley.

            Maybe she’ll listen to you.

  • So, how is it a formal standing committee of government stakeholders is immune to the Brown Act? Why are these meetings being held in secret, away from public scrutiny?

    • LFOldTimer

      “Why are these meetings being held in secret, away from public scrutiny?”

      When did public scrutiny ever convince a government committee to take the high road? Even if the meetings were made transparent they wouldn’t pay attention to what the public wanted anyway. They follow the orders of the ones who have the power to ruin their careers. The public is viewed as an inconvenient nuisance.

      • Rose Tingle

        I’m guessing by your “moniker” you may be from Lake Forest and so you know your three city council members, Hamilton, Voigts and Robinson appear to be purveyors of secrecy in government even though they are faced with the facts, albeit CC meeting on July 11 when the agenda item was discussed.

        • LFOldTimer

          The letters LF stand for lots of things. Not just “Lake Forest”.

          I’ve got news for you. I haven’t met a politician yet who didn’t try to hide one thing or another from the public. Without knowing specifically what you’re talking about – secrecy is as common in the political ranks as turd droppings are in the forest.

          The problem with we humans is that we pick sides and only see the warts on the noses of the other team. We never see the warts on the noses of our own team members. And that’s the reason the political system is so screwed up. We are more than 50% of the problem.

          It’s not just the politicians who are to blame – we elect the scoundrels and give them power while turning a blind eye to the egregious acts of those who we consider to be our “friends”. ha. Big mistake.