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Several public statements regarding the controversial Barkhouse contract negotiations in the Doña Ana district differed greatly from the documentary evidence. District Manager Fernando Macias and / or former Animal Control Officer Jeanne Quintero made these statements and appeared to be ignoring credible negative information regarding Barkhouse. (Last week, Barkhouse refused to continue.)
A court ruling against Kelly Barker for over $ 50,000 in fraud seemed like a major precaution. Macias said Friday the ruling meant little because it dates back to 2009 (when Barker was in her 50s) and because the county has had positive experiences with Barkhouse. Macias also stressed that this contract was just one of many matters he was dealing with, and that the proposed contract included a six-month pilot project that allowed the county to evaluate both the four-track plan and Barkhouse’s performance.
I was also concerned that Barkhouse attacked critics and had a lawyer send threatening letters and that Barker alleged “sabotage” by county officials in March – but was asked to postpone any investigation until after the contract was signed. I thought Macias should investigate immediately and either protect or punish the employees; but Macias says he never heard of the allegations.
When people asked if Barkhouse could keep his own dogs in the County Hold facility, officials said, “[A]ll the animals [housed therein] are county animals; “but a Barker-to-Quintero email dated February 8th said:”[T]These are NOT county dogs, they are ours. ”In April, Macias called it“ a misunderstanding ”that Barkhouse County allowed the Hold facility to run its business. On Friday, Macias said that every dog in the facility is legally owned by the county and that he recommended it to everyone about two months ago.
Officials also said, “Barkhouse volunteers do not have keys or access to the County Hold facility,” but on March 30, Quintero told Barker, “The key ring should be ready for Barkhouse use tomorrow.” Other emails suggest that Barkhouse had free access to the facility. (Macias says he didn’t know about it.)
When asked by Commissioner Shannon Reynolds about a March 29 Cessna charter to move dogs out of the state, Macias replied that the county paid nothing; But South Aero billed the county $ 13,294. Macias willingly admitted on Friday that he had been misinformed.
February emails also show that Barker is chasing Quintero after a county employee was honest with a veterinarian about the maturity of some pups. (Apparently the pups were weaned in early February, but disclosure prior to the scheduled February 26 flight would delay the matter and incur fees for more than just the one health certificate required for a nursing mother. Barker writes it is “clear “That the employee” is unable to be a team player. “Barker then suggests moving County Dogs and Barkhouse Dogs to different wings.
Macias points out that a lot of these emails did not reach his level (and usually did not) and that Quintero (who has not yet answered my calls) made the most questionable public statements. Still, the amount of obvious misinformation is worrying.
I do not agree with the allegations of corruption here. But I think there was a lack of “due diligence”; and the management would have been more accommodating and not dismissed criticism as “other companies that want some of the money”. Officials appeared to be circling the cars around Barkhouse. If I were a Commissioner, I would ask some serious questions.
That being said, I totally agree with Macias that we need to do something about our homeless dog population, starting with a nationwide rampant spay and neuter program.
Peter Goodman, a Las Cruces resident, writes, photographs, and occasionally practices as a lawyer. His blog at http://soledadcanyon.blogspot.com/ has more information on this column.