Can't Ignore the Law and Ethics When It Comes to Animals

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 22, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Point Austin: Saving the Animals” [News, Sept. 17]: “Members of the city's Animal Advisory Commission generally support the proposal, though Chair Larry Tucker said this week it would be fine if the no-kill goal can be achieved without outsourcing” – but that’s not what he said last week or over the last year. He seems to have changed his view after a post on Austin Pets Alive!’s Facebook page last week pointed out his affiliations in his LinkedIn account – APA committee for fundraising, public relations, and political action. Of course, those affiliations were immediately erased from his LinkedIn account after the Facebook posting – especially with a decision on outsourcing due any day. APA members account for three of seven Animal Advisory Commission members: Ellen Jefferson (president of APA), Palmer Neuhaus (APA board member), and, of course, Larry Tucker, the chair of the commission. So it’s not surprising that the politically appointed Animal Advisory Commission recommended that the city outsource adoptions and that APA was the only bidder. At least Jefferson and Neuhaus pretended to be objective by recusing themselves of votes on the topic during commission meetings while the city was evaluating bids despite being actively involved in the push for outsourcing. So the question is: Does the chair of the Animal Advisory Commission really want to give the city of Austin a chance to achieve no-kill, or is he merely backpedaling after his political manipulations have been exposed? If a potential contractor had taken a near majority on the Solid Waste Advisory Commission and recommended operations be outsourced to his/her company, residents would be in an uproar. Is the city somehow willing to ignore legal and ethical infractions just because it involves puppies and kittens?
Derek Johnson
   [News Editor Michael King responds: Asked about his connections to Austin Pets Alive!, AAC Chair Larry Tucker said via e-mail that the LinkedIn listing was inaccurate and he consequently updated it. "There never was a political action committee" at APA; it was only under discussion. While he has volunteered with nonprofit fundraising and public relations, Tucker wrote, "Currently, I am only fostering animals and not active with much of anything else other than AAC," and he says he has never served on the APA board. He adds that the AAC only advises the City Council on animal welfare issues and recommended outsourcing adoptions, but without recommending a contractor. "What triggers a conflict of interest," Tucker wrote, "is if that person sits on a board of directors or would benefit financially" from a commission decision.]
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