SRAC's letter to the CACC Board
SHELTER REFORM ACTION COMMITTEE
P.O. Box 268 - Gracie Station · New York, NY 10028
(212) 886-3700 · info@ShelterReform.org
visit our website: www.ShelterReform.org
March 6, 2001
Neal Cohen, MD
Daniel Ricciardi, MD
Re: Center for Animal Care & Control
Dear [CACC Board Member]:
We write to you in your capacity as a member of the board of directors of the Center for Animal Care and Control, Inc. (CACC). We are prompted to to write because it has been stated that CACC intends to revise its bylaws (with the presumption that the ex-officio members and the Mayor's authority will be eliminated), and also because of the continuing abusive conduct of Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield is a subject that needs to be addressed. The two most recent examples of such conduct is discussed below with documentation attached.
We are concerned that Mrs. Blohm is attempting to position herself at CACC beyond the Giuliani Administration. Her attempt to extend her employment contract without a proper performance evaluation, in conjunction with requesting a questionable proxy vote on a two-year contract renewal, demonstrates her lack of judgment and desperation to hold on to a job that was a political appointment in the first place, and a temporary one at that.
We remind the board members the circumstances around which Mrs. Blohm was hired. Despite having no prior experience running an animal shelter system, she was installed by City Hall on a temporary basis. All three of us met with Mrs. Blohm in her office at the Mayor's Office of Operations a few months after she was appointed interim Executive Director. We requested such meeting, in part, because we received word that despite being a full time manager, Mrs. Blohm was only spending about half her days at CACC. Mrs. Blohm emphatically denied such allegation, categorically stating that she spent all her days at CACC on CACC business. However, when we FOIL requested her appointment calendar for the prior months, it revealed a very different picture.
Four days after receiving such FOIL documents, the board held a special meeting and named Mrs. Blohm permanent Executive Director. This dishonest act appears to be an endorsement by the board of Mrs. Blohm's lack of veracity, because she has taken it as an authority to be deceitful and abusive ever since.
We wish to point out Mrs. Blohm's long record of failure at CACC, with Mr. Mansfield colluding to support her morally and legally indefensible policies. These two have created an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among the management and staff, a negative perception by the general public, and positioned CACC as a laughing stock in the humane community. Some of the more significant failures are:
1) No significant fundraising is taking place -- Mrs. Blohm eliminated the fundraising position and merged it with the public relations position, renaming it "Director of External Affairs," a government term of questionable meaning.
2) From the very outset, Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield have obstructed access to CACC and information. They declared CACC was not subject to Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws. They were wrong. They continue to display poor judgment by acting in bad faith. Two recent examples:
a) Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield refused to produce an employee separation agreement, claiming privilege. The Committee on Open Government opined to the contrary. CACC begrudgingly complied. Issue: gag order in exchange for severance pay is unlawful and was contained within despite Mrs. Blohm being ordered by the board to cease such practice more than a year earlier. See Attachment A.
b) Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield responded to our FOIL request for the volunteer application and rescuer (Placement Extension Team) application by producing documents rubber-stamped "X VOID" on every page. Such alteration does not comply with any FOIL exemptions for redaction of privileged or private information, and Mrs. Blohm's denial of our appeal fails to state the law by which she makes such ridiculous, bad-faith alterations. The Committee on Open Government has been notified and will surely render an opinion against CACC shortly.
3) There is no significant volunteer program at CACC. This is a violation of CACC's Certificate of Incorporation which specifically states that among CACC's missions are: "(5) to recruit and organize volunteers to assist in the implementation of the Corporation's programs and services." Due to Mrs. Blohm viewing volunteers as potential whistleblowers, dogs are languishing in cages not getting walked. Animals are filthy and ungroomed, making them less adoptable, and the quality of life for CACC's animals is severely diminished, shamelessly due to Mrs. Blohm morally bankrupt policy.
4) CACC has failed to create or maintain an off-site adoption program. Petco just gave their space to the North Shore Animal League because CACC dropped the ball. Again, this negatively impacts CACC adoptions.
5) When CACC failed to timely notify the Department of Environmental Conservation when it received a federally protected peregrine falcon that died the next day, Mrs. Blohm engaged in a deliberate coverup in which she held a meeting with managers to develop a "plausible deniability" statement -- i.e., a believable lie.
6) Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield have routinely rewarded employees for their loyalty and fired employees and managers who have expressed any interest in humane issues or dissatisfaction with CACC conduct regarding wholesale or arbitrary euthanasia.
7) Mrs. Blohm was reported to have held a meeting at the Brooklyn shelter earlier this year in which she admonished the employees about "leaks" of information. Just what CACC has to hide seems to be of great concern to the current management.
8) Mrs. Blohm and Mr. Mansfield have developed redemption fees and policies that are unlawful and discriminatory. Fees do not comply with State law and CACC clerks deny any access or information about individual animals to the public and refer all inquiries to the "general counsel" who often, and abusively, requires questions be put in writing. A recent example of Mr. Mansfield's abusive conduct was documented in a letter by Joseph Gorodischer, included hereto as Attachment B. It is one of many complaints about Mr. Mansfield's conduct.
9) Mrs. Blohm's need to micro-manage every aspect of CACC business has left her spread so thin that she has failed to accomplish many goals CACC should have already reached. CACC has no viable website of its own (and a limited one at Petfinder), despite numerous volunteer offerings. The search for a Queens site has been hindered by Mrs. Blohm's failure to aggressively follow through. There has been little or no effort to find aBronx site. The Manhattan shelter renovation is a year and a half behind schedule. The mobilespay/ neuter vans are not fully operational and are not being utilized for their intended purpose because of Mrs. Blohm's failure to staff them.
10) The public is still treated with rudeness and indifference by the desk clerks and staff who answer telephones, further impacting CACC's negative image with the public. Potential adopters are kept waiting for literally hours by a cumbersome and careless process.
11) CACC fails to cooperate with many rescuers and has now instituted a program called Placement Extension Team (PET) in which rescuers are asked to divulge all sorts of private information and answer ridiculous essay questions in an absurd 14-page application which serves no legitimate purpose other than to discourage such applicants. A request for such application in January by us was denied until mid-March for disingenuous reasoning that only hurts the adoption of animals held at CACC. (Program coordinator Theresa Geary refused to even speak about the implementation of the program, nor did Mrs. Blohm answer our letter of inquiry).
12) The HSUS evaluation report from December 1999 that heavily criticized CACC's management structure, was never answered. Mrs. Blohm announced that a hand-picked committee would respond to the report. However, neither Mrs. Blohm nor Mr. Mansfield would even identify its members, strongly suggesting it was a sham that never existed. The board has never inquired further into this, again abrogating its power to CACC management at the expense of the animals at CACC.
In sum, CACC is a disaster under the unqualified and dishonest management of Marilyn Haggerty-Blohm and Douglas Mansfield, and the board's almost total abrogation of authority to them.
It is no coincidence that CACC's 2002 budget is being cut by City Hall -- likely due to the perception of non-performance. Adoption is down, euthanasia is up. No programs are in place to improve this situation. The CACC continues to pursue a failed "collect and kill" policy with no plans to address the animal overpopulation problem with its partners in City Hall and the DOH. The inability to raise money from private sources will ensure CACC's future failure.
This entity is now at a crossroads at the tail end of the Giuliani Administration. If this board allows Mrs. Blohm to secure her permanent place at CACC by relinquishing City Hall's power and the ex-officio seats on such board, and installing her cronies as replacements, we will take legal action to enjoin such from happening.
Now is the time for a proper executive search. Only an experienced management team from the humane community can serve CACC's and the public's best interests. The talent is out there and we urge this board to reinstitute a search committee to line up an experienced team by the end of this term.
A hostile management team, a hostile board, and a hostile administration is not the formula for success. The entire humane community is aware of what is going on at CACC. Any back-door dealings will be invalidated in the courts and leave a black mark on the legacy of this administration.
/s/ Marie Mar, Esq., co-chair
/s/ Gary Kaskel, co-chair
/s/ Julie Van Ness, treasurer