Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dog shelter staff being interviewed by business expert

A human-resources expert who helped reshape the Ohio attorney general's office after the Marc Dann scandal started interviewing employees yesterday morning at Franklin County's dog shelter.

Felicia Bernardini, who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in public administration, will interview at least 25 employees at the shelter and report to commissioners within a month. She'll be paid $7,500.

Bernardini said she'll look at general management practices: "The organizational climate. ... What are the employee attitudes? What's supportive or what creates barriers?"

Shelter Director Lisa A. Wahoff and Assistant Director Craig L. Turk have been placed on paid leave during the investigation.

Commissioner Paula Brooks said they opted to hire a consultant to encourage employees to be frank.

Kennel technician John Addison said he'll be frank: "Everyone is afraid" for their jobs, he said.

Addison, a three-year employee, was distressed late last week to find that he hadn't made the list to speak with Bernardini at the shelter, 1731 Alum Creek Dr.

After he complained, county Assistant Administrator William J. Flaherty explained that Human Resources Director Maggie Snow had picked 25 shelter employees to provide a cross-section of positions and experience.

Flaherty said others will be interviewed if they want to be.

Addison is taking the offer. He plans to tell Bernardini, "They need new management here."

He said he saw mid-level kennel employees "white out stuff" to alter veterinary records of dogs that could otherwise be deemed unadoptable. Ohio State University veterinarians complained that their records were "illegally altered," although Flaherty said he could find no evidence of significant tampering in records that Wahoff supplied.

A second review, by a national expert, is pending to improve overall shelter operations, ensure that animals aren't suffering and increase adoptions.

Both reviews ordered by commissioners follow concerns by Ohio State University veterinarians that ill and dangerous dogs were being adopted. Last fall, two former shelter medical directors approached commissioners with identical concerns, reporting that conditions had worsened.

On Thursday, a group supporting Wahoff told commissioners she had done an outstanding job.

"Those of us who have been in rescue know she has revolutionized" the shelter, said Robin Laux, director of Measle's Animal Haven, a Delaware County pit-bull rescue group.

Linda Norris, a dog-rescue volunteer, described Wahoff's imprint on the shelter: "Before Lisa, basically, we had a law-and-order approach to animal control. Now, we're using many fosters, volunteers, and we have more spay and neutering and micro-chipping."

In other business yesterday, commissioners also approved contracts worth $25.5 million to retrofit five buildings at the Franklin County justice complex with energy-saving lights and cooling systems and water-saving plumbing fixtures. The county expects to save about $48 million over 20 years. Work will begin quickly, and the money will be paid out over 16 months.

No comments: