The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 13, 2013

Council fails to override animal contract vetoes

CLINTON — The city of Clinton has no plan in place for animal control following a failure by City Council members to override a veto from Mayor Mark Vulich of the city’s agreement with the Humane Society or to approve a contract with a local vet.  

Last week Mayor Mark Vulich vetoed two resolutions previously passed by the Clinton City Council — one approving a contract with the Humane Society that included the subsidy increase from $65,000 to $120,000 and another approving an ad-hoc committee to investigate potential cost-saving opportunities for the city regarding the Humane Society contract. The council would have needed to pass the resolutions with a 5-2 vote in order to override the vetoes. Council members also voted down a contract from local vet All Pets for animal control services, which would have carried a $40,000 subsidy and only provided care for animals brought in by the animal control officer.

Before taking a vote, the council heard from several community members who both supported and critiqued the city’s agreement with the Humane Society as well as the haste used by the mayor in issuing his veto.

Council members also took issue with what they perceived as lack of forethought on Vulich's part.

At-Large Councilman John Rowland said the contract and ad-hoc committee resolutions should be passed in order to give them more time to work with the city.  

“I think it would be best to take a time out here, take both of these proposals and let them be vetted better,” Rowland said. “Let the Humane Society come back with their proposal and I think the All Pets proposal needs to be vetted much more than what it has been. What's hurt with in two months from now, even less, coming back here and making a good decision that people can hold in their hands, look at ahead of time and see what it actually says?”

At-large councilwoman Jennifer Graf echoed Rowland's dismay with the veto. She stated it is a tool designed to be used sparingly, but one that Vulich has used three times since taking office. Graf also lamented at the rift in the community caused by the animal control discussions.

“I have deep concerns for the future for our citizens with such continued divisiveness. What did this veto accomplish? So far it has provided a firestorm of criticism on the Humane Society and All Pets, both of whom care for animals and each of whom has their camps of supporters. This has divided the community between the two entities and I don't see where that is harboring goodwill in the future of his city,” Graf said.

Ward 2 councilwoman Julie Allesee pointed to the inconsistencies between the Humane Society and All Pets contract as well as the many questions both contracts leave unanswered.

While Ward 3 councilwoman Bev Hermann did not take issue with the veto, she did have concerns with the Humane Society contract. She cited the number of animals that have been adopted, reclaimed and euthanized by the agency.

“I’m not sure where I am on this even right now,” Hermann said.

In the end, she stood with Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman and Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes and cast a “no” vote, causing the city council to fail to reach a 5-2 vote in support of both resolutions.

The resolution to contract with local vet All Pets Mobile Clinic also failed. The resolution received only two votes in favor, coming from council members Gassman and Klaes.   

The three votes leave the city with no contract in place for animal control services.  

“I don't think they were thinking,” Humane Society Operations Manager Sandi Bartels, who was at the council meeting, said.  

The city is required to capture dangerous dogs, dogs running at-large and bite cases. Vulich will consult with City Attorney Jeff Farwell to determine how the city needs to proceed.

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