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Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers claims fired Animal Control Director “A complete failure”

 
Hank Bonecutter

Hank Bonecutter

Montgomery County, TN – In an exclusive interview with Clarksville Online, Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers described former Montgomery County Animal Control Director, Karen Josephson, “A complete failure.”

“We tried to get her to comply with requirements necessary in her department to no avail. We offered technical support to get more computerized, we encouraged her to spend the money in her budget to make improvements for the facility and the staff, but we got nowhere,” Bowers claims. Mayor Bowers terminated Josephson on Monday, July 16th.

Josephson had brought an enormous amount of attention to the animal problem in Clarksville-Montgomery County upon her arrival. She desperately tried to work with the various animal rescue organizations in the community, but was faced with the non-stop “bickering” that goes on between those organizations, and the “turf” wars that add to the problem.

“I was pleased with her adoption efforts, and reduction in the shelter’s “kill” rate, but when you hire somebody to run a department, you trust in their ability to do the job, and she just wasn’t getting it done,” said Bowers. “The facility just was not clean, there were animals everywhere, even in her office, and she wasn’t even buying cleaning supplies for the facility,” Bowers said.

Josephson has not publicly responded to her termination, but released a statement through her attorney’s office that denied the claims behind her firing.

The State of Tennessee is currently conducting an audit of the Department after some “red flags” from her previous position in Cheatham County. Mayor Bowers contends that there are “Receipts not accounted for at this time”, but wouldn’t comment any further about the audit. The audit is expected to be completed by next spring, which has led some critics of the Mayor’s actions to assert that “It will be swept under the rug and we’ll never know the truth.”

Mayor Bowers has selected Sheriff’s Department Resource Officer Tim Clifton to be the “Interim” director of Animal Control, and says the position has been posted for applicants to apply. When asked if the county was working to move Animal Control under the control of Sheriff Norman Lewis, Mayor Bowers said, “It’s been discussed at various committee meetings in the past, but I haven’t spoken to Sheriff Lewis recently, since he is still recovering from some health issues.”

We will have a series of ongoing stories about Montgomery County Animal Control and the direction that Mayor Bowers intends to take the department.


About Hank Bonecutter

    Hank Bonecutter

    Hank Bonecutter is a forty year broadcast veteran and former radio station owner. His career included, talk-show host, journalist, writer, and producer.  He is president of Bonehead Promotions, an advertising consulting and media firm. He is the owner of www.clarksvillesportsnetwork.com and www.nashvillesportsnetwork.com, and is a contributing author/journalist for Clarksville Online.

    Hank worked at several Nashville radio stations, including WKDF, WLAC, WKQB and WKDA.

    He hosted and produced Clarksville’s longest running morning talk-show, “The Bone Show,” from 1994-2012.

    Hank is also a stand-up comedian, having performed at some of the top comedy clubs in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.

    Hank produced a series of stand-up comedy shows, “Comedy on the Cumberland, ” in Clarksville to benefit local charities.

    You can follow Hank on Facebook and Twitter, @bonecutter01 and @boneheadnews.

    Web Site: http://www.clarksvillesportsnetwork.com/
    Email: hbonecutter@clarksvilleonline.com

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6 Responses to “Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers claims fired Animal Control Director “A complete failure””

  1. maryforsythe Says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Mr. Bonecutter….you say that “non-stop “bickering” that goes on between those organizations, and the “turf” wars that add to the problem.” That strikes me as strange since I am friends with the Humane Society of Clarksville, Precious Friends, Shawnie’s Rainbow, Willy’s Happy Endings-Because old dogs need love too, All God’s Creatures, and the Humane Society of Dover. All of these groups work together very well, help each other if needed, and have NO problems over “turf”. The only turf war and bickering that I have observed was that Ms. Josephson wasn’t working well with some of the rescue groups and had “ousted” some of their volunteers. It is my understanding that Precious Friends had offered to take small dogs and puppies from Animal Control. Ms. Josephson was supposed to get back in touch with them but never did and that was over four months ago. The Humane Society of Clarksville has offered Animal Control their help, but Ms. Josephson never took them up on it. All God’s Creatures had pulled several Animal Control dogs and they were told a few months ago that they were no longer welcome to do that. Some volunteers from these rescues were rudely discouraged from helping at Animal Control.

    Mr. Bonecutter….if you remember correctly, a few months ago, I pointed out some things that were written by you that were not true after your interview with Ms. Josephson . Some of them were things that I was involved in. You were upset with me and pretty much told me I was out of line because Ms.Josephson was telling the truth. It was at that time that Ms. Josephson had said that she didn’t want volunteers, other than MCFOTS and her photographer friend Dan, taking pitures and sharing information about the Animal Control animals because it caused problems for her. Yet, she did the exact same thing, taking a picture of one of the dogs and sharing it with over 500 people that same weekend. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but volunteers have started to take pictures of the animals at Animal Control again now that Ms. Josephson has left. This sharing through the internet by local people and rescues will help to get more animals adopted and rescued. Things aren’t always as they are portrayed. I think we all have to open our eyes and be more observant which many of us, thank goodness, were. Now, it is time to get a new director who is open and honest, with good managerial skills, and who has the animals best interests in mind. Mayor Bower’s has done the right thing by firing Ms. Josephson and I thank her and county officials for being aware of what was going on.

  2. sandybritt Says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    As editor of former Leaf-Chronicle publication Animal Tracks and former weekly pet columnist when I worked there full-time as a copy editor, as well as long-time animal advocate and volunteer with many local rescues and organizations, I can without a doubt say the turf-war comments by Hank are totally false. I have worked with or supported the Clarksville Humane Society, Dover Humane Society, Cats Are Us, Second Chance and Happy Tails, Shawnee’s Rainbow Rescue, Willy’s Happy Ending and Precious Friends. No turf wars. I can’t speak for any other group that may have issues, but among the above, no problem as they are all independent groups with varying missions. . I also send the Pets of Week for each shelter to the Leaf and have done so for more than a decade. I know the issues inside and out.

    Animal Control is not a rescue, it is mainly a law enforcement department. Rescues often pull animals from Animal Control into their own programs and into other rescues. Animal Control should be happy for them and work with them, but their job is to fulfill their county duties.

    It seems to me the department went from one extreme to the other. No doubt it’s a department that is often last on the list, as many elected leaders think its a department for “animals” when in fact it is for people and a matter of public safety.

    But can you imagine having to kill so many healthy pets every year? Deal with irresponsible pet owners? It’s a heartbreaking job especially when our elected leaders refuse to implement graduated pet licensing and spay neuter laws like modern cities have done for many years.

    Hank, try getting all sides of an issue instead of blaming area rescues which you know leery little about. Any journalist knows many sources have an agenda. It’s you’re job to present a well-rounded take.

  3. sandybritt Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    As editor of former Leaf-Chronicle publication Animal Tracks and former weekly pet columnist when I worked there full-time as a copy editor, as well as long-time animal advocate and volunteer with many local rescues and organizations, I can without a doubt say the turf-war comments by Hank are totally false, unfair and thrown out without any evidence or balance.

    I have worked with, volunteered or financially supported the Clarksville Humane Society, Dover Humane Society, Cats Are Us, Second Chance and Happy Tails, Shawnee’s Rainbow Rescue, Willy’s Happy Ending and Precious Friends. No turf wars I ever saw. I also send the Pets of Week for each shelter to the Leaf and have done so for more than a decade. I know the issues inside and out.

    I can’t speak for any other group that may have issues when it comes to the county shelter, but among the above, it is not true, as they are all independent groups not beholden to anyone other than homeless animals and needy pet owners who have varying missions.

    Animal Control’s first mission is not adoption, it is primarily a law enforcement and sadly, euthanasia. Area rescues often pull animals from Animal Control into their own programs and into other rescues because adoption is their mission. Animal Control should be happy and eager to work with all of them, while they focus on the enforcement aspects of the job.

    It seems to me the department went from one extreme to the other: First, ignoring the help from rescues to move animals and help adopt them to someone who put adoption and rescue above the main mission. That is understandable from the point of view of one who has actually worked closely in rescue. And it’s no doubt the Animal Control department is often last on the list, as many elected leaders think its a department for “animals” when in fact it is for people and a matter of public safety.

    But can you imagine having to kill so many healthy pets every year? Deal with irresponsible pet owners? It’s a heartbreaking job especially when our elected leaders refuse to implement graduated pet licensing and spay neuter laws like modern cities have done for many years.

    Hank, try getting all sides of an issue instead of blaming area rescues which you know little if anything about about. Any journalist knows many sources have an agenda. It’s you’re job to present a well-rounded take. To thow out a blanket statement of blame isn’t professional and is nothing more than gossip and spreading rumors you might have heard with those with an agenda or ax to grind.

    One more thing. This is what I object to specifically from a journalistic standpoint:

    She desperately tried to work with the various animal rescue organizations in the community, but was faced with the non-stop “bickering” that goes on between those organizations, and the “turf” wars that add to the problem.

    You have the words bickering and turf in quotes. Who said that? Karen? You don’t say. In fact, you don’t give any source for the comments about other, unnamed organizations. Nothing. Nada. Just a thrown out accusation (or defense) with absolutely no context whatsover.

    And how did these un-named organizations add to the “problem.” What exactly WAS the problem? You don’t say.

    The county stated its case as to what problem THEY had with the director. You aren’t suggesting that volunteer groups added to those things?

    Phrases like “she desperately tried” are opinions, but again, you do not source these comments.

    Sloppy journalism, even for a student in news reporting 101. If you want to write an opinion piece do it, but don’t try to dress up an opinion as a news story.

  4. dlhip9 Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Let me just state current facts, avoiding comment on the unsupported diatribe. 1. Karen Josephson, regardless of anyone’s personal opinion, was terminated on the purported basis of an unpublished audit. Though specific allegations were requested, these were declined. Therefore,IT REMAINS OFFICIALLY UNSUPPORTED why Karen Josephson was terminated. Ms. Josephson has CONSISTENTLY sought to respond to the allegations behind her termination. However, as NONE have been provided, her response awaits.
    2. In lieu of the county’s willingness to provide basis, I suggest that Karen Josephson was a. NOT terminated for fiscal mismanagement, b. NOT fired for operational mismanagement, c. NOT fired for adoptions mismanagement. I believe the county’s inexplicable reluctance to PROVIDE a REAL basis for her termination suggests the OBVIOUS…Karen Josephson was TERMINATED because she was a most effective ADVOCATE. An Advocate not only for more humane animal management in Montgomery County, but an ADVOCATE as well against obvious failures in county support and continuing funding. I challenge posters to consider “fact” in their comment, in lieu of wasting the time of of Montgomery County residents in sifting unnecessarily through unsupported remarks. Thank you.

  5. Ricklellison Says:
    July 22nd, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    It seems to me that the county leadership should be looked at more closely. In my opinion it looks like the leadership has found a “scapegoat”. It’s very easy to lay blame with the employee when all the while the responsibility for management of said employee rests solely with the supervisor. In this case, it rests on the shoulders of the County Mayor. Reading your article would lead one to believe that the Mayor simply had no control over her employee. Her words quoted in your article are, “We tried to get her to comply with requirements necessary in her department to no avail. We offered technical support to get more computerized, we encouraged her to spend the money in her budget to make improvements for the facility and the staff, but we got nowhere,”

    Monitoring compliance with requirements of the department is a responsibility of the supervisor, again the County Mayor, Carolyn Bowers. Was their ever any documentation from the Mayor noting sub-par performance of the Director? Any documented reprimands of the Director noting non-compliance? The Mayor stated that technical support was offered to “get more computerized”. Did the Mayor address this concern with the Information Systems Director? Did the Mayor direct a proposal be submitted by the Information Systems Director to determine the feasibility and cost to make this happen? This type of initiative is not the responsibility of the Animal Control Director. The mayor states that the Animal Control Director was “encouraged” to spend money from her budget to make improvements within the facility and staff. Were these “encouragements” documented and if so what “encouragements” where they?

    The Mayor states, “I was pleased with her adoption efforts, and reduction in the shelter’s “kill” rate, but when you hire somebody to run a department, you trust in their ability to do the job, and she just wasn’t getting it done,”.

    What wasn’t getting done? The previous Animal Control Director managed to place Clarksville in one of the highest “kill” rates in the state. Ms. Josephson reduced that dramatically and increased adoption rates as well. Even though a new facility was built in the last few years, it does not seem to be adequate for the number of animals that arrive there daily. The Animal Control Department seems to be understaffed for a county covering 540 square miles and a population of 172000. But as addressed by Dr. Ron Whitford, Veterinarian here in Clarksville, there seems to be a much bigger issue in this county that the leadership wishes to avoid. If the goal of this county leadership is to euthanize all the animals that come through the doors that can probably be accomplished with the amount of resources dedicated to this department. It seems obvious that Ms. Josephson was asked to turn this department around and not given the support, tools, or resources necessary to get that done.

  6. rew Says:
    July 29th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Due to the tremendous # of pet relinquishments and the lack of assistance from other animal shelters in the area this County Commission is going to have to make some serious decisions. Montgomery County Animal Control was originally a department of the health department and the primary purpose was rabies control. This was accomplished by picking up the strays and disposing of them via adoptions or euthanasia. Several years ago the County Commission changed the shelter name to include (“and Adoption Center”). If my memory is correct some animal welfare groups lobbyed the commission for this change which was approved partially because of the emotional issues no official wants to deal with from the public. The name change I would assume meant that there would be more emphasis on decreasing euthanasia through adoptions and sending out to various rescue groups. Looking back the previous director (David Selby) had learned how to best deal with population the only way he could with the limited resources funded by the county. From a health standpoint he understood you must keep the number of animals in the shelter at a number that can be properly cared for by the staff available and that the heat/cooling/ventilation system can adequately handle. Animals do not sweat and can only lose heat by panting. This puts lot of moisture into the air which provides an environment conducive to bacterial and viral growth leading to all the respiratory problems that are routinely seen in cats and dogs adopted. There are several cat respiratory viruses that are highly contagious and unfortunately infect the cat for life. Some of these can even be contagious to humans which creates public health significance to this issue as well. Unfortunately the cold hard truth is that if you want to minimize spread of disease in a shelter contantly receiving new animals you MUST critically examine all incoming pets to ensure you are not introducing more diseae into the facility. Unfortunately the facility does not have sufficient isolation/quaranteen rooms with separate ventilation not conncected to the “healthy rooms.” In addition control of disease would require approproiate sanitation training for all staff and supplies needed to minimize spread of infectious agents. Now the emotions come into play and most that work at the shelter are just like other pet lovers in that no one wants to euthanize pets just because the have a cough or runny eyes…..but failure to depopulate animals with any clinical signs of disease just continues to spread infectious agents with the end result being many healthy pets become infected and just continue to pass on the problem.

    The answer is NOT a larger shelter. The answer lies in proper medical supervision of the faciltiy establishing appropriate protocols for dealing with a “herd situation” rather than each individual situation. A larger shelter just provides more room to keep animals longer. A major complaint I have heard for many months from the public is they do not want to go to the shelter because there are just too many animals..too hard to make a decision with so many choices. The bottom line is the shelter facility especially the HVAC cannot handle more than 50-60 animals keeping them healthy. Again as I said, David Selby had his faults but from my perspective he did a great job with what he had to work with.

    When Karen came on board as director it is well known that part of the reason she was chosen was her expertise in working with rescue groups resulting in getting more cats and dogs out resulting in a lower kill rate. Karen did as good of a job from that perspective as anyone coule ask with the funds available. She had built a better reputation with many of us that had ever before. She did have the best interest of the animals as her primary concern….but I told her when she first came on board that she would see something entirely different here in Montgomery County that she had experienced elsewhere. The shear numbers of relinquished pets is overwhelming…It has reached the point that far more animals are being housed than the facility and staff can handle if attempting to keep healthy animals. We must take the relinquishments or they will just be dumped on the street meaning we have more expense going out to pick them up…at least when the owner brings them in we save gas. Many in the community will not like it but for the health of the most adoptable pets there is no choice but remain one of the highest kill rate shelters in the U.S. According to state stats several middle TN counties are 5-6X the national average kill rate. During Katrina, MS, AL, and LA only had a 2-3X national kill rate.

    The bottom line is what we are currently doing is NOT WORKING. We are using the death sentence as our primary means of dealing with cat and dog overpopulation.

    Even the criminal justice system has learned that it is much better to prevent crime than deal with it. The same is true of pet overpopulation.

    This problem is not going away anytime soon. BUT the real answer is DECREASING SHELTER INTAKE. The only way that can happen is through spay/neuter programs. Kathy and I decided to start and totally fund outselves a LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER PROGRAM as a subsidiary of St. Bethlehem Animal Clinic which allows us to tremendously decrease overhead expense since the daily overhead is already paid by our clients. I currently donate 50% of my work day Monday-Saturday to doing these low cost procedures. Fortunately I am in the twilight of my career and can donate this time to the program…I had rather be doing this than playing golf or fishing. Veterinary Medicine has been my life since age 12 and I still love it as much as the day I graduated from Auburn University. The interesting fact is that 98% of all pets we have spay/neutered in this low cost program have NOT been to a veterinarian in at least 2-3 years..most have NEVER even had a rabies vaccination. This points to the fact that we ARE starting to make a slight dent in a population of pets that have owners that cannot afford to go to the veterinarian. The veterinary profession has advanced dramatically in the last 20 years but all this expertise and equipment is not cheap…and unfortunately the profession has outgrown that ability of many pet owners to pay for today’s most sophisticated veterinary services. This is the group we are getting now. The other group below this group are those that cannot pay even the $50 we charge for pets up to 50#. This is where grants come in from such sources as the Tennessee Vehicle License fund.

    One last point I need to make is there were bookkeeping problems at the shelter. There were a couple of times my clinic was not paid for the shelter spays/neuters for a couple of months. I know that the buck stops with the shelter director but I thought there was an additional person employed to handle the records and financial side. This person was dismissed by Karen Josephson a couple of days before she was dismissed.

    There are a lot of other rumors around town that may or may not be true. The Mayor must make the decisions she feels are appropriate to get the problems under control. It is my opinion as an outsider looking in that there should be a veterinarian interested in shelter medicine involved along with someone in chargd of adoptions and rescue operations and another in charge of the business side including records, personnel, and accounting. I would suggest that it might be possible to split a director salary between 2 people (of course probably add a little more into the pot) and get a far better job done. I am very interested in shelter medicine and have offered and would be happy to work with the mayor to turn this situation into something we can be proud of.

    I also hope everyone reading this will pass on the information about CLARKSVILLE LOW COST SPAY/NEUTER (www.clarksvillespayneuter.com, 91-645-4111. We have had several pet owners take advantage of the low cost program and then give an equal donation to spay another pet that has an owner that truly cannot pay anything. Now that is what I call the beginning of a community coming together….rew

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