Oral testimony of Louise Murray, D.V.M., a private-sector member of the board of directors of the Center for Animal Care and Control, given under subpoena and under oath before the New York City Council Contracts Committee at its June 16, 1997 hearing following the City Council's eight-month investigation of the CACC's operation of the City's animal control & shelter system. (The portion of testimony titled "Financial Matters" was prepared by her fellow board member Todd Davis.) Note: Within hours of having given this testimony, Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, in an act of pure political abuse and retaliation, faxed letters to Murray and fellow independent board member Rosemary Joyce informing them that their services were no longer required on CACC's board.
Statement of Louise A.S. Murray, DVM
Center for Animal Care and Control
June 16, 1997
I am here today representing the appointed directors of the Board of the Center for Animal Care and. Control, although I will speak in the first person when appropriate.
The Center for Animal Care and Control was set up in 1994 as a not-for profit corporation organized exclusively for charitable purposes. Despite our intensive efforts to help the CACC achieve its mission, we have developed serious misgivings as to the ability of this organization to succeed under current structural and political conditions, which I will discuss .
The focus of this statement will be to demonstrate the detrimental effect of the current voting structure of the board as defined in the by-laws, the danger of the resultant power of the Mayor's office to influence the Board, and the harm done to the corporation, and therefore to the people and animals of New York City through the influence of the City on this private, not-for-profit organization. The essential fact is: under the current construct of the Center for Animal Care and Control, the Mayor's office has disavowed responsibility for the day-to-day realities of animal care and control in our city, while maintaining control of a private, not-for profit organization. This is graphically illustrated through the example of the Board s current search for a qualified Executive Director.
As background information, I will describe the structure of the Board and certain relevant sections of the by-laws.
The Board is composed of seven directors. Four of these directors are appointed to this position by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor of Operations (section 2.2). As stated in the By-laws, any appointed director may be removed without cause at any time by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor (section 2.6). For the sake of clarity, I will refer to these four directors as the "independent directors".
The other three directors are ex-officio, or city, directors, who by virtue of their office as Commissioner of Health, Commissioner of Sanitation, and Deputy Commissioner of the Police Department in Charge of Community Affairs serve, as directors of the CACC board (section 2.2).
As set forth in the current by-laws of the CACC, for certain actions, such as appointing or removing officers of the corporation, including the Executive Director, or adding to, amending, altering, or repealing the by laws, the vote in favor must include all three of the city directors' votes, even if a majority approves the action (section 3.6). For example, if six of the seven directors vote in favor of an action, yet one city director does not, the action cannot take place.
As such, the four independent directors, who serve voluntarily, and exclusively for the purpose of furthering the corporation's mission, are rendered relatively powerless by both the voting structure and the fact that they are subject to removal without cause by the Mayor' s office. By contrast, the three city directors, who serve involuntarily and, here I quote the by-laws, serve as such "in the furtherance of the interests of the City of New York"(section 2.2), have individual, absolute power to affect the outcome of matters voted on by the Board, and are subject to the interests of City Hall, even if those interests oppose the best interests of the CACC.
It is evident, even in the abstract, that a corporation is in grave jeopardy when governed by a board on which tho.se who serve voluntarily because of their interest, experience, and skill have little power to use these assets for the good of the corporation, while those with power represent the minority of the board, may have no experience or interest, and are subject to outside influence. Unfortunately, I do not speak in the abstract, as the events of the past four months, during which the CACC has existed without an Executive Director, have proven this potential jeopardy a reality.
On February 5, 1997, Marty Kurtz resigned as Executive Director of the CACC. During the subsequent search for a new Executive Director, the following events demonstrated the power and willingness of the office of the Mayor to interfere with the affairs of the CACC, and also the serious harm thereby done to this organization.
-The Search Committee for Executive Director was set up at the insistence of the independent directors. On February 10, I wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Board, Commissioner Doherty, urging the immediate formation of a Search Committee and proposing that both myself and independent board member Rosemary Joyce serve on the Search Committee with the Chairman because of our extensive contacts throughout the national shelter and animal welfare communities. We were informed by the Chairman at our Board meeting on February 26 that this committee would instead be comprised of two city directors and only one independent director.
-The Search Committee was unable to function meaningfully due to obstructive tactics. For instance, I serve as the independent director on the Search Committee, yet I was repeatedly denied access to the resumes of interested candidates, despite multiple documented requests by phone, fax, and in person. Although the Board agreed in meetings that the Search Committee would decide as a group which of these candidates were suitable to interview for consideration by the Board, I was never consulted, and interviews were scheduled without my input. In fact, the Search Committee never met, despite my requests for a meeting, which were denied.
-Most importantly, what we believe to be deliberate obstruction by City Hall prevented us from being able to offer Mr. Ed Sayres, our most promising candidate by far, the position of Executive Director. Despite the unanimous approval of the Board of Mr. Sayres as Executive Director, and the vote of six of the seven directors to enter into negotiations with him for the position, we were apparently prevented from doing so by a direct order from the Mayor' s office to one of our city directors.
We cannot overemphasize the harm done to the CACC, and thus the people and animals of New York City, by the prevention of the hiring of a qualified Executive Director. Mr. Sayres, for example, brought the shelter he directed in New Jersey to national attention when it was voted Shelter of the Year because of his innovative and passionate leadership.
The CACC is in desperate need of such leadership. Due to inadequate City funding, we are crippled by our lack of fund raising, which would allow us to expand adoptions, take better care of the animals in our charge, develop programs such as volunteers, foster care and public education, and advertise. All of this, from effective fund raising to the institution of programs to benefit both the people and animals of this city, require the direction of a talented and passionate leader with both experience in, and love for, this field.
The question we have asked ourselves over the last four months as we experienced the incredible frustration of struggling against an unknown political agenda to hire a qualified Director for the CACC is: why? Why would the Mayor's office not want the CACC to hire the best available person for this job? Surely it is self-evident that this is our only chance for success. This remains a question: although we have asked it many times, the answer is not forthcoming.
Although we lost Mr. Sayres, we have other qualified candidates resulting from our nationwide search. It is the hope of the independent directors that the Board of the CACC will be allowed to exercise its best judgment in the hiring of one of these candidates.
Although we are doing the best we can under the circumstances, as it stands, the CACC is trapped in a cycle of failure which can only be broken if we are released from- the stranglehold of City Hall. Without the right leader, we cannot raise funds, improve our programs, or take the kind of care we would like to of the animals in our charge. Yet we are not free to use our judgement to select this leader. We are subject to constant public criticism, yet without better funds, we are helpless to improve. Our city funding is patently inadequate to do the job asked of us, and certainly inadequate to move forward, yet burdened by this criticism and the public image of a city agency, we cannot successfully utilize our not-for-profit status to raise funds.
We, the independent directors, came in good faith when asked to serve. We are willing and eager for the opportunity to utilize our combined expertise and passion for the mission of our organization, an independent, not-for profit, charitable corporation; in concert with a qualified and enthusiastic Executive Director, we can help New York City's Center for Animal Care and Control to reach and surpass its goals. However, if things are allowed to continue as they are; if the Mayor's office prevents this Board from fulfilling its duties, and if an unqualified city employee is placed as Director, this organization is doomed to failure.
As a result of inadequate funding, the CACC is now facing an urgent financial crisis.
In the first quarter of 1997, the CACC incurred a funding deficit of approximately $150,000. This translates into an annualized deficit of about $600,000. In prior years, the CACC also incurred deficits that had to be covered by advances against future funding. This funding deficit means that the CACC, to remain solvent, will have to either cut services from present levels or receive additional funding from the City.
We should note that this funding deficit is not a new phenomenon. We are told that, when the shelters were operated by the ASPCA, the ASPCA had to supplement City funding with more than a million dollars of its own money every year in order to keep the shelters operating. Unfortunately, the CACC does not yet have significant other sources of funding to supplement the City contract. To make matters worse, this past fiscal year, the Department of Health cut our budget by a total of $200,000.
In response to this crisis, we have directed management to review alternatives for cost cutting. These alternatives may have to include: closing our satellite intake and adoption centers; eliminating adoption and spay/neuter advertising; cutting our investment in our fundraising department; cutting shelter staffing; and the elimination of other activities that are not absolutely essential to the day-to-day basic functioning of the main shelters.
Obviously, such cuts will only worsen the current situation at the CACC. But, of course, we cannot allow the CACC to become insolvent and so, without additional funding, we will have no alternative but to cut an already austere budget.
Even if this $600,000 deficit were covered immediately, our tight budget is partly though certainly not completely - responsible for some of the problems at the CACC. The per capita spending on animal care and control in New York City is among the lowest in the nation: 67~ as opposed to the national average of $1.18.
This means that our adoption and spay/neuter advertising budget pales in comparison to those of other groups, such as the North Shore Animal League.
This means that we cannot pay enough to attract the best management team. For example:
ԇ The salaries of Executive Directors of other large animal shelters - in cities with lower costs of living than New York's - are substantially higher that what we can offer.
ԇ We just lost our current Controller - the first one who presented our finances in such a way as to make clear our financial predicament - because he can make nearly 50% more elsewhere.
ԇ We pay the man responsible for overseeing our entire shelter operation - one of the "good guys" who is responsible for many of the things we manage to do right -- just $49,000. He's been getting calls from the head of another major animal organization.
Our budget prevents us from hiring necessary personnel, such as an assistant fundraiser, an assistant controller and an assistant to the operations director.
Our budget allows us to pay only paltry sums for veterinary care, and so we cannot attract the best candidates to care for the animals at the shelters.
Our budget provides no funding from the City for stafftraining.
Our budget provides no funding from the City for advertising.
And our budget provides no funding from the City for fundraising.
It should be apparent from the public's interest in this matter that the public wants the City to provide an effective animal care program. That costs money. Not a lot of money in the scheme of things - we certainly are not asking for the kind of mone~y that would be required to care for 55 60,000 human beings every year. But it does require enough money to hire a qualified management team. It requires enough money to provide good veterinary care. It requires training. It requires advertising to promote adoption and spaying and neutering. And it requires an investment in a fundraising department that can make the CACC grow on its own - without additional City dollars - to do even more for the animals and people of this City.
If it took the ASPCA more than a million dollars over the City contract amount to run the shelters the way it did, it is certainly not reasonable to expect the CACC to do a better job for less.