Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Board of Animal Services Slips it's Collar

Somebody forgot to tighten the choke collar
which has plagued the Los Angeles Board of Animals Services Commissioners since...forever? At their meeting on June 22, 2009, the Board seemed to go rogue and would not take "no" for an answer. Nor would they take "no answer" for an answer.

For a full week, since Kate Woodviolet's piece on Stu's story appeared at Examiner.com, the Board,City Attorney's office and Linda Barth have been barraged with emails, calls and messages from countless Stu supporters demanding and pleading for mercy and justice.

Item 4A on the agenda, the case of Stu, the evidence dog, which has been impounded for 4 years while his owner/guardian has battled to save him from Death Row and certain execution, was the impetus for the Board shaking off their restraints, but this very admirable show of blazing courage from a Board which has, for years, been accused of being a rubber stamp for the General Manager(s) and the Mayor quickly spread to all business within the Board's control. The last time the Board took bold action in the case of Stu, on August 27, 2007, when they voted unanimously to release Stu from the pound after 2 years and move him to the luxury digs at K9s Only in Tarzana, the Mayor's office clamped down hard. Former Commissioner Marie Atake resigned in protest and disgust and Commissioner Riordan is rumored to have been threatened with removal from the Board after 9 dedicated years of service.

From the 6/22/09 Agenda:

A. Oral Report from the City Attorney on status of Case: Jeffrey Peter De La Rosa v. Animal
Control Board of the City of Los Angeles, et al.; Los Angeles Superior Court Case #
BS104836; Court of Appeal, Case # B202071.

CLOSED SESSION: The Board of Animal Services Commissioners may meet in closed
session with the City Attorney as its legal counsel pursuant to Government Code section

First, the was no oral report from the City Attorney. Dov Lesel claimed that Todd Leung, the "litigation attorney" was "not available" to come to the meeting (his office is next door in City Hall East), but sources tell BoardWatch that Mr. Leung was not otherwise engaged in court appearances but was, instead, sitting in his office when the agenda item was called.

+/-

On the Board's first pitch to the City Attorney at hand, Dov Lesel, Board members asked what actions were in their ability to take to stop the madness of the 4 year persecution of this innocent animal. Mr. Lesel's first response: The Board can do nothing. It's in the hands of the Court of Appeals, he claimed, as the case was submitted (final argument was heard) to the Court on June 18.

Commissioner Quincey was boiling. He stated the he had asked for his motion regarding Stu (the motion was for the Board to direct the City Attorney to withdraw opposition to Stu's owner's appeal in the Courts) to be placed on the agenda more than a month prior (actually , it was more than two months ago, on April 14, 2009) but it had never appeared on the agenda and now his motion was moot. He had intended, apparently, to save the Court the burden of rendering a decision over the life or death of the dog, Stu by instructing the City Attorney's Office to throw in the towel on a case it should not have opposed in the first place, in Quincey's opinion. Quincey wanted an explanation. Commissioner Riordan asked for an explanation. Commissioner Ponce demanded an explanation. Dov Lesel said, "I don't set the Board's agenda. Assistant General Manager Linda Barth disappeared into her chair back and remained silent. There would be no explanation.

At considerable length, Quincey went on to report to the Board and to the public, that he had reviewed the "whole" case file. The 30-year veteran Animal Control Officer reported that he had determined that the case should have been dismissed from the get go. Quincey reported that the bite was reported over a month after the incident and that it was a civil matter--that "there was no violation of the Municipal Code" by Mr. de la Rosa and therefore, there should have been no involvement by the Department of Animal Services. Following Quincey's statements, Commissioner Irene Ponce said, "you could hear a pin drop in here." The Board was stymied and the supporters of Stu, seated in the gallery, just smiled.

It was then that President Tariq Khero told Quincey that if he ever wanted an item placed on the agenda, that he need only send Khero an email. Riordan cautiously erupted.Vice President Kathy Riordan told the room that she had not had much (or any) success in having items placed on the agenda. She implied that not only was it difficult for her to have items placed on the agenda for consideration by the Board, that it was near impossible to achieve this over the obstruction by management.

In the end, through dogged persistence, the Board was able to force City Attorney Dov Lesel, to lay out exactly what the Board could do to settle Stu's case, save his life and return him to his home. Lesel came forth with all kinds of ideas for the Board. They could:

  1. Recommend whatever they wanted to City Council as a Board or as individuals. Lesel corrected himself (from his earlier statments that action was out of the City's hands) by saying that settlement of this case was actually in the hands of City Council.
  2. Make recommendations to the Council's Public Safety committee which oversees the Department of Animal Services.
  3. Direct the City Attorney to file a supplemental paper to the Court of Appeals which stated the Board's position that the Department had botched the case and denied Due Process of law (this is our favorite- Ed.)
  4. Schedule an "emergency meeting" of the Board to take whatever action it deemed appropriate.
All of these things are a far cry from Linda Barth's assertions to concerned callers that the Board can "do nothing." Throughout the heated discussion of this item, President Khero appeared to feign that Department management was innocent of any obstruction of the Board 's intentions. It is worth saying that along with the usual copies of the agenda and accompanying documents laid out at the back of the room, were several sets of full-color pictures of Tatiana Edwards's (the dog bite "victim") injuries to her right arm. Nobody seemed interested in them and they did not even bear any identifying information which might have informed the public as to what these pictures were and what they were doing spread out among the meeing literature.

Khero persuaded the Commissioners that no emergency meeting was necessary. Lesel and the Board forced Linda Barth to pledge that , in the event of an unfavorable decision for Stu by the Court, prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting, that the Department would take no action to kill Stu. She added that it was the General Manager who had made the gallant committment that Stu would not be "euthnanized" (read: KILLED) while any actions in the the Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court were still possible.

So, we wait. We wait to see what, if any, action the Board will take to move City Council to end this fiasco. Will they appear as individuals during the Public Comment period at the next Council Meeting? Will they draft and approve a resolution decrying Stu's innocence and the Department's denial of Due Process of Law in this case? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, we await the opinion of the Court of Appeals. President Khero said , as though he knew, that the Court would surely not release their decision before the next regularly scheduled Board Meeting currently on the books for July 13.

By the way, where was the fifth Commissioner, Ruthanne Secunda? She was conspicuously absent. If the Board had tried to take action, Secunda's vote may have been crucial, since she has previously been sympathetic to the cause of Stu and has let it be known that she would like to see this nightmare end favorably for Stu.

1 comment:

  1. Stu needs to be allowed to go home immediately. This fiasco has dragged on entirely too long.If this dog was really "vicious," he would have bitten before, or he would have been noted to have tried to bite people since. This is NOT thge case and it is clear that this has become a personal vendetta to punish Mr. de la Rosa for daring to fight for the life of his beloved dog and not for any actual actions of the dog. STOP playing games with the life of the innocent animal.


Please make up a name other than "Anonymous" so we can keep track of who says what.No, we don't need your real name. How to do this? Below, select "Name/Url" and type in a name. That's it. You will still be "anonymous" but we'll know which "anonymous" you are. Thanks.

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