Mayor, council right to withhold animal shelter funds
Pell City Mayor Joe Funderburg and the Pell City Council are doing the right thing in withholding funds from the Animal Shelter of Pell City until that group becomes more open and accommodating to the city and the public.

City officials met with ASPCI on two occasions and asked for three things: 1. They wanted a copy of the operating procedures used at the animal shelter; 2. They want the organization to conduct an annual audit; 3. They want ASPCI to open all its meetings to the public.

“I have not heard anything,” the mayor told some ASPCI representatives who were there for a City Council work session last week.

The mayor, the council, and the people of Pell City deserve to hear something, and it seems to us the requested changes are not out of line. Instead, they would go a long way in building trust between the council and the animal shelter.

By failing to respond, it looks as though the animal shelter managers just don’t care about what the city wants. But they still want money from the city and ultimately from the taxpayers of Pell City.

Mayor Funderburg made the point that the council must be accountable for spending city funds. Others pointed out that the animal shelter operated by ASPCI is funded by the city and is housed in a city-owned building on city property. That makes it clear to us that ASPCI is indeed a “quasi-governmental agency” as one city official pointed out and that designation means an order of transparency should be followed by the group. Instead, the three requests are simply ignored.

We see no reason to withhold information on operating procedures. That would give the council and the public a sense of just what the animal shelter does, what its policies are and who is in charge of seeing that policies and procedures are carried out. We presume that somewhere the animal shelter has a written document or documents that explain all that. If they don’t, tell the council and mayor that and get to work developing one.

The refusal to consider an audit is troubling. The ASPCI claims that an audit would cost around $10,000 and they just couldn’t afford to do that. ÊWe believe they can’t afford not to have an audit and they need to conduct one as soon as possible, then schedule a yearly look at their books by an outside firm.

Audits are nothing more than a disinterested party looking at the business operations of a company or other organization. They make sure good practices are followed and make recommendations when they find discrepancies. People who operate their organization with standard practice should not worry about an audit.

And the last item asked for is that the ASPCI board opens its meetings to the public. Barbara Wallace, president of the board, said her organization is a 501©.3 nonprofit organization and is not a governmental agency that should be audited, or open its meetings to the public.

Even if that is true, there is nothing that prohibits ASPCI from doing those things. Sharing an operations manual, submitting to an audit and conducting its business in the open is not too much for the city to ask.

The city provides money for the operation of a group that operates out of a building owned by the city and on city property. The city even provides gasoline for the ASPCI vehicles.

It’s obvious that the animal shelter enjoys a productive relationship with the city. They have no problem taking the city’s money. They just don’t want to be accountable to the council or the taxpayers of Pell City.

We believe the mayor and council are right on this issue. We commend them for their stand and hope they will maintain that view until their request is met.
© 2013