An Open Letter to Mayor Wharton

Via MyFox Memphis:

Shelter workers have filed a grievance over the internationally watched web cameras at the Memphis Animal Shelter. They claim they’re being threatened by people watching.

“They’re the only ones, nobody else in city government has to work with cameras over their shoulders,” said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

Mayor Wharton, how many divisions of your government starved sentient beings to death in recent years?  How many divisions include the needless killing of healthy/treatable pets in their daily duties?  How many divisions currently have a staff member on suspension pending criminal cruelty charges in connection with her city job?  How many divisions are hanging cats in tongs before killing them?

Cause see, I was thinking that MAS was the one and only division of your administration that needed the webcams in order to be held accountable to the public.  But if you have other divisions like this, do tell.  I’m sure voters would be very interested to hear.  Otherwise, it is a false equivalency to compare MAS to other divisions of your administration.  Furthermore, it is an insult to your constituents and to the deeply held belief that American government is by the people and for the people.

P.S.  If you need money for webcams in the new shelter, just say the word.  As I have offered previously, I will help raise money and I can probably find you a better deal than what you’re getting at present.

35 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Mayor Wharton

  1. Here’s the deal. Mayor Wharton is afraid of something. I don’t know what it is but nothing is making any sense. Who has what on who?

    1. He is more than likely scared that there was never any proper follow through after the raid in 2009. He is also more than likely scared that there are scads of folks working there who just plainly shouldn’t. Believe it or not it is easier said than done to straight up fire a public employee in Memphis. So between the “Second Chance” program and the “Ban The Box” program and the lack of a proper human resources personnel under Herenton, Wharton has to try and cover a bucketload of nonsense for his own re-election protection and nothing more.

      With all of that being said and all. All he had to do was clean house from top to bottom like the dickens and just have that be it. But, he could not do that because it would have brought a very great many things to light that would have just been really far out.

  2. Dear Mr. Mayor:

    The outrageous incidents occurring at MAS, and the equally outrageous behavior of those in charge, has thrust Memphis into a very harsh and unfavorable spotlight. The issues at hand are not only ones of animal cruelty but also go beyond that to truth in government.

    In 2009, Memphis tried to do the right and responsible thing. In response to a raid at MAS which revealed outright animal neglect and cruelty (a municipal entity does not have a license to break the law), MAS installed surveillance cameras at the facility. This was done in an attempt to correct the problem—to monitor the situation to make sure it does not recur, and equally importantly, to be transparent.

    Now, in response to recent shocking incidents, your administration’s response is not to deal with the problem (or confront the challenges, as you claim to do on your website) but rather to try and quite literally hide the problem.

    1. The city is removing those very same cameras due to grievances filed by the very employees whose shocking behavior has been captured on film. So, as opposed to dealing with a staff that carts garbage cans full of puppies to the euthanasia room or who drag terrified animals to their death with a catch pole, the administration considers the solution to be just remove the cameras that film these offending incidents.

    2. Kapone, a family’s well loved pit bull, accidentally escaped his yard along with another family dog. It is undisputed that both dogs were picked up by a Memphis animal control officer (ACO). Kapone never made it to MAS. And neither MAS nor your administration has been forthcoming, nor frankly seems to care, where Kapone is or what happened to him. He is still missing. Along with, based on MAS’ own records, 155 dogs last year who were picked up by ACO’s but never made it into the shelter. No inquiry or effort has been made on behalf of these missing dogs, some of whom were cherished family members. And needless to say, these “missing” dogs are clearly indicative of problems in MAS which continue to go unaddressed.

    3. Concerned citizens have repeatedly asked to meet and speak with you and you and your chief of staff have refused to meet with them to discuss solutions. In fact MAS minutes reflect your chief of staff saying that he will never let you meet with animal advocates. This seems quite at odds with your focus on responsiveness and delivering efficient, equitable and excellent service to the people of Memphis per your website.

    4. You have allowed the MAS board to close their meetings to the public in clear violation of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act and the official policy of the state that public business should not be conducted in secret. Beside being in contradiction of law, I question how this fits in with your well-publicized agenda of transparency.

    You are accountable to the people of Memphis, and in this age of the internet and worldwide communications, you are also coming under the scrutiny of a much broader global community. I can assure you that animal advocates, as well as advocates of transparency in government and public access, will be closely following your next move. I am hopeful that, as opposed to making Memphis a legal battleground, you will “walk the walk”, so to speak, and approach and deal with the situation at hand in accordance with your proclaimed agenda and promises.

    Respectfully yours,

    Polly Grunfeld Sack, esq.

      1. I agree. Your letter sums it up nicely. Have you received any response? I’d like to read that.

  3. Mr. Mayor, those web cams are the only thing that gives your administration any shred of credibility in the matter of MAS. Take those down and we’ll all know for certain that you’re complicit in the abuse.

    Can anyone say “full audit”?

  4. Very well said, all of you.

    I’ll tell you who the Mayor is afraid of: everyone. Prove me wrong, AC. Just go ahead. Remove those cameras and you’ll have chaos on your hands, because, as we have tried to explain, we are not going away.

  5. Is there such a group as an investigative grand jury? Not sure of the legal options, but if he continues in his quest to sweep this under the rug, then I think we need to know what our options are.

  6. It is an all too common, deranged mentality in certain segments of this country– similar to recent efforts to pass state legislation prohibiting videotaping of livestock being brutalized prior to and during slaughter. The legislation would outlaw such taping, and penalize those who dare to expose the brutal practices that are far outside accepted industry standards for humanely “processing” livestock intended for human consumption. The same type of idiots are circling the wagons in this case.

    1. Yes, it was Republicans in each state that tried to pass the “no video/photos of animals in agriculture” law. As far as I know, it has been turned down with the efforts of Farm Sanctuary & Last Chance for Animals & letter writing campaigns.

      Republicans seem to care more about “industry & corporations” than innocent & abused animals, or the little people.

      1. “Republicans seem to care more about “industry & corporations” than innocent & abused animals, or the little people” They do? Thats news to me ;)

  7. They are not to have cameras at the new shelter

    The Memphis Animal Shelter will no longer use Web cameras when it moves to a new facility later this Fall.

    City Chief Administrative Officer George Little said in a memo sent to shelter administrator Matthew Pepper this afternoon that the city shares concerns workers have about their safety because of the cameras. City employees recently filed a grievance with the city, saying the cameras made them fear for their safety.

    “While advocating for accountability and transparency within city government, I concur that the administration must also ensure that the employees of the city of Memphis are afforded the opportunity to work in a safe environment,” Little said in the memo.

    The cameras, installed after a raid by law enforcement officials at the shelter in October 2009, snap a photo every 15 seconds. They have recorded what some interpret as inappropriate actions by employees.

    Workers had asked that the Web transmissions stop immediately, but they will stay operational while the city remains in the current shelter. When the city moves to the new shelter, located at 2350 Appling City Cove, only internal security cameras will be used.

    Shelter employees complained they were the only workers in the city whose daily actions are broadcast across the Web, and that they had received threats as a result of the broadcasts.

    “It is the union’s position that this is a safety issue due to all the threats, hostility and even sexual comments made to and about the employees at the shelter online,” said the grievance. “The union does support security cameras in general but does not support the webcam that is broadcast in anonymous form. In theory it was a good idea but it is now threatening employees.”

    After the 2009 raid, when deputies discovered that some animals in the shelter were sick or had been deprived of food and water, the facility at 3456 Tchulahoma was taken over by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. After the city regained control of the shelter, Mayor AC Wharton announced the installation of the 24-hour surveillance cameras with public access.

    A city report on the shelter’s operations, ordered after the raid, said shelter employees were often confused about policies and procedures and received little direction from supervisors.

      1. You & I both know what is wrong with this picture. I cannot write it here, but I think you know what is happening. A direct email will supply my theory.

      2. Shirley: meant to send you this: There is ALWAYS a way, where there is love. Here’s a quote I found the other day: “The fact is that to do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can” – Robert Cushing.

        Just sayin’, and I know you’re not a shrinking violet.

    1. About friggin’ time…um, hello!? Well, now they can say it isn’t MAS’ problem anymore, and deflect real concerns about the cameras and Kapone…lame, very lame.

  8. Thanks for slogging onward with this.

    Some oddball questions:

    Has anyone started a little collection of some of those nice acts of compassion caught on camera? You (YB) have shown one or two. Maybe they should be shown, as well — not out of some “fair & balanced” dogma, but bc there are at least a few employees there who do care and do know how to handle animals kindly. They have nothing to fear from being on film.

    Could we get photos of, say, Austin shelter employees doing their work, or Nashville’s (somewhere it said they lost only 5 animals last year, compared to 155 in Memphis)?

    And, really dreaming here, could we get some unemployed Memphis residents who would be glad to work for a better-run shelter to post photos of themselves hugging a pet?

    If the above ideas seem disconnected, just entertain this thought and see if it rings true to you:

    On the one hand: If the mayor can keep people thinking that only more-well-off suburbanites & outsiders are complaining, and that either snobby or creepy people are who’s watching — looking down at unfortunate toilers doing a dirty job –, then he wins, and the animals keep losing.

    On the other hand: The more the true breadth of concern gets out — people who’ve had to give up their pets who could’ve kept them with a little more help for vet visits, the Shoups, nursing home residents, you name it — combined with evidence that the No-Kill Equation *has* worked in other real cities with real struggles, then the glimmer of hope for lost and abandoned animals in Memphis gets brighter.

    Thanks to anyone who read that whole thing! May peace prevail somehow for all creatures…

  9. Im sorry, maybe its just me, but I highly doubt that money is the reason for them not having any webcams on the new shelter and if they had one at the last shelter, then it should be illegal to not have one for the new shelter. That could be a big reason as to why they wanted to move in the first place. I dont know who is threatening them as I dont live in Memphis, but what weve seen in the past is bad enough that I think if someone was going to go out of their way to harass these workers, it wouldnt matter if it happened a day ago or a year ago; we’re all fed-up and they arent doing a gosh darn thing to change their ways AT ALL. AC knows that he is just digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole with this shelter, refuses to do anything about it, and figures that if there are no cameras, then there is no proof.

    1. The area where the current MAS is located is just not all that safe at all and is a trifle bit run down (I am trying to be polite in explaining that). The area where the new MAS is soon to be is really safe and well kept. If anything it would have been easier from a technological standpoint to keep the web cams up and running in a really sturdy and somewhat internet friendly fashion over at what is soon to be the new shelter than the soon to be old one.

      The cameras were ordered up after the raid in 2009. Now what I want to try and learn is where are the complaints of employee threats? Where are the police reports which were brought forth by the employees who are claiming to have been harassed in most every way possible?

      The manner in which the Commercial Appeal article is written about the new no camera whatnot reads oddly to me. The complaint seems to be that the employees are claiming to have been “virtually” harassed and nothing else.I want to see solid proof of police reports and all of that because I really doubt that anyone has ever formally identified some of the more ghastly employees of the MAS and then harassed them in any way at all. I cannot even find any crime listings as of right now of the police having been called directly to the MAS or any such thing as that.

      1. YES! Anyone, Cindy? Can we get hold of solid evidence that they have been threatened in any way by anyone, even fruitcakes who are not on the blog? B/C I think the bastards are making it all up…

  10. There is no doubt in my mind that they’ve been caught now and they don’t want to be caught again. Anyone stupid enough to believe it’s about the money is either drinking the MAS kool-aid or just plain gullible.

    I am beyond sad for the animals at MAS. I don’t know what to do now.

  11. @db: You got it, it isn’t about money, its about D Hogan gettting caught and the others being watched. Wharton’s Kool-Aid is what people are drinking IF they believe the budget BS.

    Everyone hold onto your seats – we’ll think of something!

  12. Re. “They’re the only ones, nobody else in city government has to work with cameras over their shoulders” I don’t think that is true. Aren’t police officers government employees? They work with cameras (dashboard cams) looking over their shoulders.

  13. Aren’t any police reports public record? Has anyone contacted the Memphis PD and made inquiries about this? There HAS to be somebody in the city government of Memphis who gives a darn about animals and what’s going on at MAS. Can national groups be brought into the mix on a higher level to try and enact something to protect them?

    1. I imagine an FOIA would be the thing to do, but while the investigation is ongoing, I think the records are closed to the public. Cindy?

  14. Does anyone know if the mayor or anyone in city government is reading these posts? How do I know anyone is reading this?


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