GOING, GOING....PART I
From Mayor Sam:
Villaraigosa Cornered after Strong-Arming City Councilmen
Did Mayor Villaraigosa try to strong-arm Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, Bernard Parks and Dennis Zine into not holding a meeting of hundreds of city employees and animal rescuers last night?
Did it work? No sir!
According to those in attendance, nearly 200 people composed of animal shelter employees, union officials, rescuers, and media attended the special evening Personnel Committee meeting at Van Nuys City Hall to demand the termination of Edwin M. Boks, the Animal Services general manager and Linda Barth, his hand-picked assistant general manager.
Villaraigosa’s office also ordered Boks’ rubber-stamping Animal Services commissioners to not attend the event, although two (Archibald J. Quincey and president Glen Brown) disregarded those directives.
The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News have stories about this today, but both missed the most shocking testimony of the evening, which was confirmed by several people in attendance.
Former chief veterinarian of the Department of Animal Services, Kathy Rainey, said Mr. Boks ordered her to “conduct certain veterinary practices with infectious diseases without regard for public safety, including allowing public access to a rabies isolation area, even though such jurisdiction is a county function once rabies is diagnosed."
Mr. Boks, she said, told her that the worst that could happen is that she would receive "just a slap on the wrist and that the California Veterinary Board should not be in our business."
The vet also said that Mr. Boks allowed other medical decisions to b e made by another Assistant GM, even though she has no background in veterinary medicine, causing six other veterinarians to leave the city to practice elsewhere.
After detailing other shocking behavior from Mr. Boks and/or Ms. Barth, Dr. Rainey said that as a public health official, she resigned because if she acted as Mr. Boks directed her to, the California Veterinary Board could have revoked her license.
The veterinarian advised that if such practices were ever reported to the state, and proven to be true, it could cost the city its own state license to run animal shelters.
A 29 year department employee, Kathy Mooney, said she is retiring early due to Mr. Boks' intimidation, said she felt like she is "hanging herself" by coming to the meeting, told how in her job as the keeper-of-department-kill-statistics, Mr. Boks creates ever-vaguer statistics so that Mr. Boks can make false claims that the city is "95% No Kill," even though it kills tens of thousands of animals per year.
Victor Gordo, a union representative, told of the threats, intimidation and unfair labor practices employed by Mr. Boks and Ms. Barth. Mr. Brown (the Animal Services commission president) publicly denied that these wide-scale employee concerns were ever brought to the commission’s attention. That could be because20Mr. Brown appears to have missed at least 10 commission meetings during his two year tenure. (His claims were publicly disputed by Maria Atake, another former commissioner who told about her experiences with Mr. Boks.)
Other problems addressed include a complete lack of training, policies & procedures, and emergency preparedness.
At one point, Dennis Zine asked, "Is there anyone in the room who has anything positive to say about Mr. Boks or Ms. Barth?" One employee got up and said, "Yes, they have united everyone in this room against them!"
The meeting ran so long that, after a full 4 hours of testimony, the Councilmembers still had dozens of speaker cards that had yet to be called, so the Council members told the crowd that the meeting would be reconvened within a few days.
Going back to the original point: Why did Mayor Villaraigosa try to strong-arm the City Councilmembers into not having the meeting?
That answer is embarrassment. For years, the Mayor has stayed with Mr. Boks because, to admit that he made yet another hiring mistake would be to arm future political opponents with proof of Villaraigosa’s incompetence. But now, with numerous TV and video cameras recording last night’s meeting, the Mayor can no longer claim he didn’t know.
All the Mayor can do is try to strong-arm the City Council, again, wh ich, this time, it appears won’t be enough.
The Mayor is meeting on Thursday with Union officials to discuss the future of Mr. Boks’ and Ms. Barth's employment with the city.
As Paul Harvey says, then there’s “the other side of the story.” There is a money trail to someone who has been influencing the mayor to keep Mr. Boks. If anyone has more information about this, please write to us. Be prepared to help us name names.