Humane Ending for San Gabriel
By Sean Telles
San Gabriel, CA –In a 4-1 ruling, the San Gabriel City Council voted to work with San Gabriel Valley Humane Society (SGVHS) in a 22 month contract, ruling against the city staff recommendation of Pasadena Humane Society – due in large part to community input.
“Needless to say we are very happy to continue to serve the city we call home!” Pat Brayer, Executive Director.
From testimony on both sides, it seems years of a dysfunctional relationship between the former leadership of the SGVHS and a now defunct Joint Powers Authority (JPA) led to a bitter back-story: Former representatives of the JPA – including Councilwoman Juli Costanzo, who was on the JPA Executive Committee; Michael Burns, who was the Executive Director/Consultant of the JPA; and Tom Marston, the city’s Finance Director who was the Treasurer of the JPA and on the Administration Committee of the JPA – seemed to accuse the SGVHS of financial mismanagement, while SGVHS maintains their finances are disclosed – including online documents at the non-profit watchdog website guidestar.org.
It might have felt like the Twilight Zone for anyone following this case closely. For the second time this summer the council chambers were jam-packed and tension was in the air. About 60 days after many community members pleaded with Councilmembers to contract with the SGVHS, the arguments were being repeated: SGVHS is a local business, SGVHS is historic, SGVHS is listed on your website as a top-location in the city, SGVHS is where I adopted my dogs from and where I find them when they get loose.
After a testimonial speech given by SGVHS veterinarian Frank Bossong, he asked the question most were wondering, “We have your name. Why are we here?”
City staff cited their main reasons for their Pasadena recommendation as having positive references and a savings of 15k a year. During the meeting Councilmember Harrington questioned that idea, “We are the references.” Many questioned the math as well, pointing out that Pasadena Humane Society would be keeping the all the licensing fees while SGVHS would be sharing half of their licensing fees with the city.
One universally appealing outcome of the new contract is direct communication and accountability between the City and humane society that can now negotiate without passing information through the JPA-middleman. As a result, San Gabriel residents will no longer be told to call the police when a stray animal is spotted roaming the streets, as the SGVHS now has the ability to manage its own protocol.
The city staff committee was made up of Finance Director Tom Marsden, Police Chief David Lawton, City Accountant Linda Tang, and Animal Consultants Inc. President Michael Burns, as well as Councilmembers appointed to the committee by Mayor Sawkins: John Harrison and Juli Casatanzo.
In addition to the Mid Valley News, the evening was covered by the Pasadena Star News and ABC 7.