SPCA President Betti Gravelle, two board members and a volunteer trumpeted the sudden success of the organization during the last week as they addressed the County Commission Monday night.
Acting upon a request from Commissioner Ed Elkins to hear from members of the SPCA board, Chairman Louie Alford recognized SPCA board member Chris Turner.
Turner is one of the three new board members who took their positions last week and then voted in concert with Gravelle to fire former shelter director Bobbi Anderson.
“The bylaws [of the SPCA] are very clear that there is one spokesperson for the board, and that’s the president of the board,” Turner said.
“If you’d like to hear from the SPCA, Miss Betti Gravelle is the person — and according to the bylaws is the only person — authorized to speak on behalf of the board.”
Gravelle said the last time she had addressed the Commission, she stated the SPCA was not in compliance with the county contract.
She said she was there to “clear up a few things” and presented a packet of documents titled “Barnum & Bailey At Work At The SPCA,” a play on the reference to the “circus atmosphere surrounding the operation of the county animal shelter” that was printed in Sunday’s Daily Banner editorial.
The front page showed a photo of volunteers in front of the shelter during a workday and the second page was a spread sheet showing animal intakes had gone from 20 to 40 in the last week and adoptions had gone from 9 to 27 in the same period.
Gravelle said the packets contained examples of the activities “that threatened our mission.” Those activities took up the remaining six pages.
One page was an email from Anderson to Gravelle stating two persons “bullied me and my staff and threatened to call the lawyer” when the two took an identified dog Anderson said had not been held for the appropriate 10 days.
Anderson’s email said the two took the dog to Gravelle’s Dixie Day Spay after which she “strongly advise you (Gravelle) against altering this dog.”
Anderson also said the two volunteers “are no longer to come to the SPCA.”
Because of Anderson’s continued complaints, volunteers from Cleveland for a No Kill City were not allowed onto the shelter premises. The assumption is the two people in question were from that organization.
Anderson had complained members of the organization had refused to sign tracking documents and were taking animals out without proper documentation.
Another page from Gravelle addressed the allegations Anderson shredded documents the night of her dismissal.
“While no critical information was lost, this situation created extreme suspicion as to how the resources of the SPCA have been used,” Gravelle wrote.
A list of computer files was also provided and shows mostly documents of forms and instructions. No plainly titled documents of a financial nature appear on the list.
The notation with the list said “it appears the majority of the files were deleted on Aug. 12 and Aug. 17” and that the “computer in the back was completely wiped and had the operating system reinstalled over it on Aug. 17.”
The document provided no evidence as to who deleted the files, or how they were deleted.
Gravelle also provided an email from BCSO Sgt. Yvonne May concerning the 911 call which led to Anderson’s termination.
In her address to the Commission, Gravelle said the SPCA and the board of directors “is focused solely on the future.”
She introduced the new manager of shelter operations, Jordan Williams. She said the current state at the shelter is such that it is “now in compliance with the contract with Bradley County.”
Williams said he was “fully committed to the mission of this organization and the solidarity of its volunteers, its board of directors and its officers.”
Gravelle added the shelter is “servicing the residents of Bradley County at unprecedented levels.”
“The plan is working,” she said.
SPCA board member and Commissioner-elect Dan Rawls said the improvement in the building “is tremendous” as well as the improvements in the adjacent buildings.
“I was there three hours Sunday, and saw at least 50 volunteers,” Rawls said.
He also was critical of any potential decision of terminating the SPCA contract “before they heard the other side.”
Rawls said board members had the responsibility to take actions “when you know something is wrong or you have a liability.”
“What was done, as far as the dismissal, was based on the fact that you have fiduciary responsibility when you saw something wrong to act on that,” he said. “That’s what happened.”
He also said it was his belief “the media hasn’t given both sides of it.”
“They have not given both sides. It has not been fair,” Rawls said.
Commissioner Jeff Yarber disagreed with Rawls on whether all sides had been heard.
“We have been hearing the other side for a long time,” Yarber said. “Every time the SPCA did anything, it was applauded by this Commission. I was the one who said it was not going to work. Seeing what’s going on, it is our fiduciary responsibility to stop this before it gets to where it’s going to go.”
Yarber also expressed skepticism about the shelter’s numbers over the last week.
“After a week, I don’t think things are straightened up,” he said. “That much in one week? Then, we just need to let them run the county. I’m afraid there [are a] lot of facades going on.”
Commissioner Bill Winters asked Rawls why Anderson was not permitted to speak at the SPCA meeting last week.
“You just said both sides should be heard,” Winters said.
Rawls said it was because at a prior meeting “we had two women right here ready to fight.”
“When you allow that to go on, all you are going to do is incite people in the room,” Rawls said. “Why should we allow this to go forward? The decision was made.”
Cheryl Wilson, who said she volunteered with SPCA, joined Rawls in criticism of media coverage.
“There are two sides to every story,” Wilson said, adding she was there when members of Cleveland for a No Kill City were told they could not enter the shelter.
“It’s true the newspaper has been biased and has not completely done both sides,” Wilson said.
SPCA board member Perk Evans was personally critical of the Banner reporter covering the SPCA situation.
He told the reporter he had praised him because he “actually reports the story and doesn’t use his reporting to editorialize.”
“I still think the world of you,” Evans told the reporter, “but you’ve been editorializing.”
He also said the former shelter director is gone, and “she will not be coming back.”
“We’re looking forward and that’s the mission at hand,” Evans said.
He also noted the Banner editorial’s view the community “was sick of seeing all the headlines about the SPCA.”
“You write the headlines, sir,” Evans said to the Banner reporter. “So, if the community is sick of seeing them, look in the mirror.”