Monthly Archives: August 2015

Baldwin Park and Downey Pets Need Your Help and the DACC is being investigated

The Downey and Baldwin Park Shelters are outdated and irremediably dirty structures. With sixty years of grime caked on the walls, these shelters can no longer be adequately cleaned.   The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has ignored the crumbling infrastructure of its two oldest animal shelters for years – and the only times they seemed to ever focus on the Department of Animal Control was when there was a photo opportunity that might get their faces next to a cute dog in the media.

Ironically, a photo of a dog with feces in its kennel, something that happens several times every day in every shelter across the county, triggered a protest which went viral; the organizers were able to gather 5,000 signatures from people angry with the filth.   When you get that many angry signatures career politicians will pay attention – and Supervisor Don Knabe pushed through a resolution ordering the County’s Interim Chief Executive to investigate the safety and cleanliness of the shelters and report back in 15 days with a specific action plan to improve the shelters, customer service and ensure accountability within the shelters.

Whether this is just a lip service, “I made a photo op statement and now I can ignore it again” winking glance at, or a sincere investigation of the DACC, we don’t know yet. If it is the latter the Board will quickly discover that Director of Animal Control Marcia Mayeda has badly mismanaged this agency, which routinely violates State laws and OSHA regulations, tramples the rights of its employees and members of the public, provides substandard care to its animals and routinely kills pets who did not need to die.   If it is the former, the BOS will quickly lose the forest for the trees and fall for Mayeda’s snake-oil saleswoman’s pitch, and be told that the lack of care is caused by too many animals in the shelters – and Mayeda will then order her underlings to lower the kennel populations through mass killings. We would like to hope that the BOS and Knabe are sincere, but years of experience have not left us overly optimistic.

To further demonstrate how pernicious, mendacious and morally corrupt Mayeda is, last week former Baldwin Park kennel attendant Erika Valles was sent a letter signed by DACC Sergeant Rachel Montez-Kemp informing her that criminal charges have been filed against her for animal cruelty. After disgraced former Baldwin Park Shelter manager Pat “Google Me” Claerbout ordered pets to be fed less in a cost cutting move, Valles began photographing the shelter’s pets getting thinner.   Valles was also fostering pets for the shelter, and when one of her foster kittens became ill, she brought the pet to Baldwin Park for its veterinarians to examine. Because it was a cold day and Valles thought that the kitten might be contagious, she placed the kitten in her car as she waited for the veterinarian to be available. Claerbout had Valles’ car illegally broken into and claimed that having the kitten in the car constituted animal cruelty. The kitten turned out to have panleukopia, a common but nearly always fatal disease that claims hundreds of cats’ lives at Baldwin Park each year.   Claerbout blamed the death on Valles, and sent Montez-Kemp, who works at the Lancaster shelter to Valles’ home in Riverside County, far out of the DACC’s jurisdiction for an illegal inspection.   Claerbout also summoned the DACC’s hatchetman, David Hou, to illegally threaten Valles with animal cruelty charges if she refused to resign immediately.   Valles had no legal representation and tearfully quit.   The DACC reneged on its deal and now is pushing for prosecution.

Ironically the same day Valles’ kitten died, five other kittens at Baldwin Park died of panleuk, yet no one was prosecuted. Equally ironically at the Lancaster shelter, an animal control officer left a dog on his truck, parked in the sun for 8 hours in 115 degree heat. The dog died a horrible death. Interestingly, it was this very same officer who backdated the Chameleon notes that are the key evidence of the DACC’s cover-up in the fatal pit bull mauling in Littlerock which claimed the life of jogger Pamela DeVitt.  Oddly enough Sgt. Montez-Kemp never managed to secure a criminal charge in her own backyard.

Mayeda and the DACC’s leadership cannot be trusted on any level – and if it’s a small pile of dog shit at the Downey Shelter that triggers some sort of shelter reform, we can only wonder what kind of reform should be inspired by the huge pile of stinking manure residing in the DACC’s Long Beach headquarters.

Will the last one to leave the D.A.C.C. please turn off the lights?

It’s been another tumultuous week at the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.   Ryan Drabek, who was only recently brought in as Deputy Director, tendered his resignation – and although we don’t know his reasons, we suspect Drabek did not enjoy toiling under the agency’s tainted autocratic head, Marcia Mayeda.

Drabek’s replacement is the affable and capable Danny Ubario. Ubario had done an admirable job reforming the Downey Shelter before being sent to Baldwin Park to clean up the mess that was created by Mayeda’s unfortunate hire, former Baldwin Park shelter manager Pat “Google Me” Claerbout. In his short tenure at Baldwin Park, Ubario managed to re-socialize the shelter’s battle-scarred staff, restore relationships with rescue partners and improve volunteer morale.   With his sensibility and consensus building style, Ubario’s promotion is certainly a breath of fresh air at the fetid DACC headquarters.

Replacing Ubario at Baldwin is Lancaster’s current shelter manager, Sherry Koenig. The timing of Koenig’s move is interesting, because rumors are that she is being investigated by the County Equity Investigations Unit, the agency responsible for investigating reports of potential violations of  County Policy or of either Federal or State law.   The Equity investigations department has rarely been turned loose on the DACC, but Marcia Mayeda’s constant thwarting of internal affairs investigations conducted by the DACC’s own Human Resources Department left the Board of Supervisors no choice but to outsource the investigation to an independent body free from her meddling.   Amongst the employees currently rumored to be under investigation are Claerbout, Koenig and Deputy Director Derek Brown.

Speaking of the DACC’s Human Resource Department, its hatchet man, David Hou, has quit and has, ironically, taken a job with the Los Angeles County Superior Court. This is the court where the Devitt case is scheduled for trial. The plaintiffs allege that Mayeda and her agency negligently failed to impound a pack of marauding dogs which later fatally mauled jogger Pamela DeVitt,  The plaintiffs also allege that Mayeda and her minions engaged in a deliberate cover-up through a series of backdated notes and fraudulent entries into the DACC’s tracking software, attempting to frame the dogs’ owner, Alex Jackson, for murder and hide their own negligence in order to avoid paying a large settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.   Speculation is that if Mr. Hou chooses to reveal the corruption he was ordered to ignore the Board of Supervisors would have no choice but to immediately fire Marcia Mayeda and several of her cronies, including certain members of the Board of Supervisors.

Meanwhile Raul Rodriguez, Lancaster’s Lieutenant, has been given the position of Lancaster Shelter Manager.

One can only wonder how much longer Marcia Mayeda can steer the sinking ship that is the DACC. We used to question her integrity but not her brains. Given the turbulent seas she is trying to navigate and the possibility of criminal charges, her decision not to abandon ship and get out while she can makes us question our original evaluation of her intelligence.

We also hope that once the smoke clears – the last person left standing at the D.A.C.C. remembers to turn off the lights.

Marcia Mayeda and the DACC get “Bitch-slapped” in court… Could her firing be imminent?

Thanks to yesterday’s ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana, Marcia Mayeda’s grip on her position as Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) has never been so tenuous (to see Judge Recana’s ruling please click here:) . Mayeda and her crumbling agency are being sued for their negligent failure to perform mandated duties – that had they done their job would have prevented the fatal mauling of jogger Pamela DeVitt. The ensuing cover-up implicates not only Mayeda – but new evidence points to the blame reaching all the way up to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Rather than address the facts of the case, the defendants tried to argue that the statute of limitations had expired for Ms. DeVitt’s family to sue and filed a demurrer – a failed attempt to make the case go away and be swept tidily back under the rug where the County tried to bury it in 2013. The County tried to force the plaintiffs, (Benjamin DeVitt, Pamela’s husband and best friend of forty-two years before he was widowed, their daughter April, a marine biologist, and their son, Tad, a U.S. Army war hero who retired from active duty in June of this year), to pay a $60,500 bond to secure an award of costs and attorney’s fees based on the County’s claims they would win the case if it went to trial.

Judge Recana denied the County’s request for bond and also wrote that based on the facts alleged Devitts’ amended complaint, the County did not have a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits. Judge Recana correctly sent a strong message that this case will be tried on its legal merits without the bluster and circus that County Counsel historically trots out for DACC-related cases. The DACC’s traditional tactics of deny, delay, obfuscate and causing the maximum financial hardship for any plaintiff brave enough to call them to account do not seem to be sticking this time around.

If it cannot be settled before trial, the DeVitt case is likely to be tried in front of a jury. Defendants – LA County the feckless bureaucrat, Marcia Mayeda, and the Department she has repeatedly failed to lead, will be held accountable for their deeds. It has been a long time coming. DACC’s laziness and callous disregard for the public’s safety – despite multiple attacks on people and animals – and despite multiple complaints to DACC, the Sheriff’s Department and to the Board of Supervisors, simply failed to impound a bunch of unlicensed, unaltered, stray dogs. Even Alex Jackson, who now sits in jail for murder, called animal control to advise them that he had been feeding stray dogs dumped in the desert and that the dogs on his property were not his and were un-licensed strays. DACC has 27 days between Alex Jackson’s call and the mauling to pick up those stray dogs. But they didn’t.

Will Judge Recana’s ruling motivate the County to try to settle this case before the truth of their negligence and reckless disregard of the public’s safety is splattered in technicolor all over the public record? The evidence is explosive and it keeps coming. Whistleblowers (whose privacy is protected by attorney-client privilege and the press’ right to hold sources confidential) continue to provide more evidence to the Plaintiffs. Many DACC employees have been disgusted for years while their complaints about mismanagement, failure to follow DACC procedures have fallen on deaf ears – even at the Supervisor level. Further, those who spoke out against Mayeda – even when their complaints were about procedural failures – resulted in the messenger receiving discipline rather than the legitimate issues raised being addressed. As long as employees stayed silent, their failure to perform even the most fundamental duties of their job was condoned, even when it came to picking up stray, unlicensed marauding animals.

It leaves no doubt that there was a conspiracy involving Marcia Mayeda, the DACC and the office of County Board of Supervisor Mike Antonovich to cover-up the agency’s negligence. The Sheriff’s Department hands are also dirty on this one, as it appears that they also were called by the public on multiple occasions regarding attacks on people and animals.

Reliable sources state that there will be no settlement without the County publicly admitting they failed in their duty and taking responsibility for their actions because only real change in leadership and staffing – not the usual lip service – is the only way to prevent this from happening to another person’s wife or mother. The plaintiffs reportedly will not accept any settlement that does not include the dismissal of Mayeda and a meaningful audit and overhaul of animal control.

Legal experts speculate that a jury trial could yield a judgment well into eight figures. Los Angeles County self-insures, which means that continuing to employ Marcia Mayeda, when they had knowledge of her misdeeds, may be the single most expensive mistake Los Angeles County has ever made. Supervisor Antonovich will have to face the bright light of truth as it is shined on his office’s own culpability in this case. There is a great deal at stake – not only a multi-million dollar verdict – but Antonovich’s reputation and legacy as well.  If Antonovich and the County want to make the Devitt’s go away without their culpability being exposed, they are going to have to begin negotiations by offering up Marcia Mayeda’s head.  Otherwise it’s see you in court, in front of a jury and a Judge who does not appear to be impressed with the DACC’s antics.

Alex Jackson, the owner of some of the marauding pit dogs, was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years to life in a criminal court. The County happily drove the Alex Jackson “murder” bus when manslaughter would have been the proper charge. Why? To deflect from their own liability and failure to perform their duty. Alex Jackson may have been a marijuana grower and an addict, but he had no intention to kill anyone. He fed the stray dogs others had previously dumped in the desert who the DACC failed to pick up. So we pay for Alex Jackson to sit in jail when he is no danger to others. We also pay Mayeda’s $213,282 annual salary (plus she receives over $50,000 in additional benefits!) while she oversees DACC’s budget of  $39,000,000 – and yet over a period of several months and after multiple complaints, the DACC could not perform their most fundamental duty by impounding a few dangerous stray, unlicensed dogs. If they had just done their job, Pamela Devitt would still be alive.

Marcia Mayeda and her employees failed to prevent the attack from ever occurring and then engaged in a deliberate cover-up in an attempt to hide their reckless disregard for their duties. Should Marcia Mayeda be charged with manslaughter and obstruction of justice? That is a matter for a Grand Jury to decide, and only time will tell. As more ugly truths comes to light and the panic and blame game sets in, we are likely to see the fur fly all over Los Angeles County.

 

Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

Surprisingly enough the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) has a Code of Ethics, published in its Policy and Procedures Manual. Over our next two blogs we are going to check out the code, clause by clause and see how Marcia Mayeda’s agency is doing:

As an employee of the County of Los Angeles’ Department of Animal Care and Control, my fundamental duty is to promote and protect public safety and animal welfare, assist citizens in obtaining information regarding the animal laws of the County of Los Angeles and the State of California, and to respect the constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice. In pursuit of this mission, I pledge:

Let’s talk equality and justice.   If a member of the public’s dog bites someone, the DACC comes to their home, and files a bite report incident which is investigated.   At the very least the biting pet will be placed under quarantine for ten days. Frequently the DACC seizes and subsequently kills the dog by designating the animal “PDD” (Potentially Dangerous Dog). However, if an Inglewood dog belonging to DACC Deputy Director Derek Brown bites a member of the public, as allegedly recently happened, there is no investigation, no quarantine and the incident is swept under the table. Clearly no violation of ethics here…

To provide humane treatment and care for all animals, always mindful of what is best for the animal’s physical and behavioral well-being and to prevent suffering and pain.

A Lancaster officer left an elderly Pomeranian on his truck for 8 hours in temperatures over 100 degrees with the air conditioning off and the doors closed. The dog died. This same officer has repeatedly crashed DACC trucks, and allegedly has parked his vehicle outside his home while on duty – yet he is not only still employed by the DACC – but works the graveyard shift where he is alone and unsupervised at the shelter.

To provide emergency care to injured and diseased animals and, when necessary, humane and dignified death, by recommended and approved methods, for all animals in my care.

 Again at Lancaster, in the evening after the shelter’s veterinarian had left for the day, an officer recently ignored five sick dogs who she was ordered to transport to an emergency outside veterinarian. The pets died. The officer involved is still on duty.

            To protect the public from harm or fear caused by animals

On May 9, 2013, Littlerock jogger Pamela DeVitt was fatally mauled by a pack of pit bulls. These unaltered, unlicensed dogs had previously been involved in at least three different biting incidents, drawing multiple complaints… yet the DACC never confiscated them and then engaged in a coverup to hide their non-action.   The officials who engaged in the coverup are still drawing salaries from the DACC.

To make every effort to reunite lost pets with their owners, or place unwanted pets into suitable homes.

            In a recent survey of dogs at the Baldwin Park and Downey Shelters, we found twelve dogs whose microchips were not detected upon impoundment. Several of these dogs’ chips were not discovered for as long as three weeks.  A couple of years ago, Lancaster killed a microchipped Labrador retriever before its mandated ten day hold was up and knowing full well that the owner was coming to claim the dog the following morning.

Everyone has a bad streak here and there – and although Marcia Mayeda’s agency has failed miserably in upholding the first half of its Code of Ethics there is always a chance that they will salvage everything with a great second half rebound. There is an equally good chance that Donald Trump will look in the mirror, and be so horrified at what he sees and announce that he will atone by entering a monastery and taking a vow of silence.