The Coastal Post - April, 1997

Marin As I See It

Back-Scratching Is Alive And Well

By Sanford I. Gossman

My last column submitted to the Coastal Post was titled "Why Vernon Smith Should Not Be Reelected." It wasn't printed, and he was endorsed by the C. P. So I went on strike. But that has to be over now because there are many things that you need to be told, and I seem to be the only person willing to tell you about them. WHY ARE WE PAYING SO MUCH FOR ANIMAL-CONTROL? Some $1.7 million per

year! Unless something is done to stop it, in April the Marin Board of Supervisors will sign a THREE YEAR contract with the Marin Humane Society to do animal-control in the County of Marin-$5.1

million. That's big bucks, even in Marin.

Almost fresh out of jail, in the Fall of 1995 -- thank's to the lies of MHS personnel who didn't like the literature I was distributing-I told Supervisor Harry Moore (Novato) that I was interested in forming an organization to do animal control in Marin, charging the county much less than what was then being paid.

I would build a multi-purpose facility with on-site apartments located on upper floors, with laundry and child-care facilities, to accommodate the families who would provide much of the work force.

With this and other innovations, I could easily save the taxpayers at least $250,000 per year and, at the same time, provide badly-needed housing for low-income families and retain most of the money received from the county in the local economy.

The funding for the building would come from the Small Business Administration. The source of the loan payback would be the monthly payments from the county contract.

Supe Moore told me that I "had to be careful" when working with government contracts because "they had to go out to bid." I asked him why the contract with the MHS had NEVER been put out to bid (in the twenty or so years that the arrangement has been standard practice). He replied that "We didn't know anyone else was interested." That's because there has never been a meaningful attempt to publicize the contract.

For several weeks, I have been demanding that the supes put-out the contract to bid. They're not interested. The best excuse to cover their ass they can come up with is an off-the-cuff opinion of the County Counsel that because the MHS is the county "poundkeeper" the contract does not have to be put-out to bid. BULLSHIT! I have checked the state and local ordinances and can find no such exception.

Further, there is nothing from keeping the poundkeeper to be whatever entity is selected to do animal-control for the next contract period. I have asked the supes to order that a comprehensive legal opinion be submitted in writing. Watch... it ain't gonna happen.

On March 18th, I asked for a good-faith showing of putting the contract out to bid. I warned the supes that if there was no evidence of good faith by the next regular meeting (April 1st) I was going to file a lawsuit asking the court to order the contract put-out to bid and to invalidate any new contract until the matter was litigated to conclusion.

With the absence of bidding, the taxpayers get charged whatever the MHS wants to charge. So unconcerned are the supes about how much YOU are charged by the MHS, they are unwilling to even talk about changing anything. And much could be none to reduce the cost of animal-control. With relative ease. Just having dog licenses sold by vets at the time that a rabies shot is given would, according to

an independent study done a year ago, generate the $175,000 per year, thus reducing the annual cost of animal-control to Marin taxpayers by 10-percent.

I see many other ways to reduce costs: Every hour of volunteered, rotational time spent at the MHS by

local vets would reduce costs by $50 per hour. Further, the $7,067 paid by the county as rent for the MHS each month could, in twenty years, provide 100-percent equity in a $800,000 building. What the

county now has to show for twenty years of rent payments is NOTHING.

The study was to determine the feasibility of animal-control alternatives. Missing from it is much important information about the current operation because the MHS was unwilling, or unable, to supply it. This indicates, to me, either a cover-up or very poor management practices. Moreover, there is NO AUDITING of the MHS financial records as it pertains to animal-control activities even though when wearing it's animal-control hat it is administering a Marin County agency. (In fact, in September of 1994 I obtained a judicial ruling to the effect that the MHS is a public agency.)

Just because our supervisors would rather continue to perpetuate the good ol' boy (and girl) network, keep doing business as usual and to hell with the taxpayers, you ought to care about how your

money is spent. Stop the back-scratching ripoff! Call your supe, and do it now!