|Caddo Parish Commission Work Session: 10/2/17|
Jack Whitehead writes:
Something's wrong here: we have a Caddo Parish administrator in charge of an animal control operation that is obviously out of control. Check the record. Woody Wilson keeps doing the same thing in hiring incompetent animal shelter managers while expecting a different result.
When does someone start asking meaningful questions about Dr. Wilson's competence here? Does he get supervision? Then, too, what will it take for him to even start thinking about privatizing our "if in doubt, kill 'em" animal sheltering program?
Management by government isn't working. Management via private means, with public financing, would give us a chance to find managers motivated to make this operation work — for the animals and for us, the citizens. We could do right things right, if we just tried, for a change.
You know the cycle to which he refers. Something horrific happens at CPAS, like mistakenly euthanizing the wrong cat or dogs tagged for rescue mistakenly being euthanized, and the animal community gets up in arms. We all march down to the Caddo Commission meeting, rail at the commissioners for their ineptitude, and nothing changes. We might write letters or blog posts, we might organize meetings with our commissioners, but nothing changes.
Many politicians and citizens not involved in the animal community refer to us as "those crazy animal people."
We now have a chance for change, and I'm not talking about yet another new director of CPAS.
At the Caddo Commission work session on October 2, Commissioner Matthew Linn introduced
a proposal to amend the Home Rule Charter under which the Commission operates and allow for a provision for the Commission to hire an independent auditor.
Simply put, the way the Commission now works, the parish audits itself. It's the equivalent of Parish Administrator Woody Wilson writing his own test and grading it himself.
What Linn has figured out is that an outside audit is needed if anything is going to change. It's simply good government. Why wouldn't we want to follow known Best Practices in government and allow more transparency in what is going on in our local government? There are legislative guidelines for local governmental bodies to follow and the Caddo Commission is not following those guidelines by virtue of their charter.
My theory is that Caddo Animal Services is just a distraction for whatever is going on elsewhere in the parish. Why does Mr. Wilson keep installing people to head that department who are inept? If we are all up in arms about a mistakenly euthanized cat then we aren't paying attention to anything else. The Parish Administrator should have fixed this ongoing problem and inept department by now. I'm not saying anything nefarious is happening elsewhere in other areas of parish government, but how do we know?
Local animal advocate Cindy Marrus passionately appealed to the Commission on October 2, and in
|Cindy Marrus: CPC Work Session 10/2/17|
Under Linn's proposal, the Commission could call for an audit of any department under their purview, including Animal Services. You would think this would be a welcome change to the Home Rule Charter which currently does not provide for this.
During the meeting on October 2, Linn noted that he had provided literature about Best Practices in auditing and local government to the commissioners and some had even attended a meeting about it. He's done the research.
Ultimately, the voters have to approve this; all Linn is asking the Commission to do is to bring it before the voters.
Three commissioners voted against the proposal: Doug Dominick, John Atkins, and Louis Johnson.
Mr. Dominick said his concern is the cost of bringing this before the voters: if done in a special election (which nobody suggested) it would cost $225,000, but done during another regular election, like our mayoral election for example, the cost would be around $20,000. Dominick also suggested that this should wait until the committee that meets every four years to discuss the Home Rule Charter convenes. They last met in 2016 so my question to Mr. Dominick is how many more animals are you willing to see killed before you wait for this committee to meet in three more years?
Mr. Dominick suggested that a committee to audit financial issues might be okay but not operational issues. "That's a whole 'nother ball of wax," he said.
But what if operations are your problem?
John Atkins expressed concern about changing the current charter and said that he believes the Commission could achieve the same results by forming an audit committee, which in essence is the same as I said before: writing and grading your own test. This is not transparent and subject to a host of political shenanigans, vote trading, bargaining, etc., - not that I'm suggesting anyone would do that, but clearly an independent audit is preferred and is a known best practice.
Incredibly, to me, Louis Johnson said he thinks things are just fine the way they are. He said, "We have people in place who are doing a great job...". It seems that Mr. Johnson confused the issue as a no-confidence vote against Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and that's simply not what's on the table. While Mr. Johnson said that we can offer compassion to the woman whose cat was euthanized, he said he was offering "a confidence vote for what we have in place." So, the abysmal failure of CPAS is just fine with Louis Johnson.
Mr. Johnson, by the way, is serving as interim Commissioner after the resignation of Ken Epperson. The election for this seat will be October 14.
Remember, all that Mr. Linn is asking them at this point is to bring this issue before the voters - asking for the authority to have an independent audit of parish departments if needed. In concurrence, Lyndon Johnson noted "what we're doing is not working," because the charter right now does not allow for independent audits. In the meeting Johnson also noted that "we know there are issues with animal services and we need to make a change and see if we can do something different."
Steven Jackson said, "I felt sort of remiss when I heard about this. This is not a slight on anyone...it's about asking the citizens what is their preferred method for best practices."
Commissioner Chavez agreed: "Caddo Parish Animal Services has failed...We keep putting our trust in what's not working. Something's got to give."
The list of atrocities at CPAS is lengthy, from selling animals out the back door, to bestiality, and countless accidental incidents of euthanization. It's been going on for over a decade. Clearly the Commissioners, nor anyone else, know exactly what's going on there. Just try and volunteer at CPAS - good luck on that.
In truth the only person that knows what's going on in all departments of parish government is Parish Administrator Woody Wilson; the Caddo Commission does not because there's no transparency. As Parish Administrator, we expect that Woody Wilson would want to utilize known Best Practices in government and offer transparency to voters, animal advocates, citizens. He should be advocating for this change in charter. He is not.
Linn said at the work session, "Yes, it's going to cost $20,000 to put this on the ballot but it's worth it to let the citizens vote and see if they want us to follow what is known as Best Practices...Give transparency a chance."
I think he's right.
Everyone in Caddo Parish should advocate for this, and to appeal to your Commissioner to support this. Don't we want transparency? Don't we want to ensure accountability? Look at what the City uncovered when the water department was audited! We have a chance to change.
If the Commissioners could fix CPAS, they would. They can't because they can't get involved in the departmental operations there. This proposal would give them the authority to do that and to uncover the Wizard behind the screen.
Find your Commissioner here. Ask them to support this amendment.
Shreveport Times: Caddo Commission Mulls Adding Independent Auditor
Shreveport Times: Out of Control Animal Shelter
Association of Local Government Auditors