Investigative panel blasts Fischer, Animal Services over dog scandal

Louisville mayor says 2,000 jobs at risk with $10.10 wage
Published: Dec. 18, 2014 at 12:14 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2015 at 12:28 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville Metro Council committee delivered a scathing report of Mayor Greg Fischer on Wednesday, accusing his administration of animal neglect, retaliating against a whistleblower, and a cover up.

Whether intentional or not, Fischer called a news conference about his stance on a proposed $10.10 minimum wage for the same time the committee was to issue its report. A Democratic council member said the mayor was trying to "distract" from the findings, while a Republican called the timing "unusual."

The council's ad hoc committee in August began investigating the death of a pit bull named Sadie. She was euthanized in February after her caretaker, Heather Adkins, accused Louisville Metro Animal Services management of funneling donation money for Sadie to other dogs instead.

The probe set off a variety of other allegations, including that Adkins was disciplined for being a whistleblower. The ad hoc committee members, including four Democrats and three Republicans, were routinely frustrated by what they described as Fischer's unwillingness to turn over key documents and people for interviews.

"The committee concludes that by the clear and convincing evidence made available, the LMAS Department did knowingly neglect Sadie by failing to provide proper health care for the animal in a timely fashion," the report states.

The investigation found that Animal Services management "improperly disciplined" Adkins. Committee members called the Fischer administration's internal investigation into the matter "inadequate," then accused the administration of a "misrepresentation of the findings" of its probe.

"The backpedaling that occurred after everything was brought out in the initial phase, I didn't understand why," said Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, a Democrat who co-chaired the ad hoc committee.

The panel recommended that Fischer's administration publicly commend Adkins' actions in trying to save Sadie, that the administration correct Adkins' personnel file to exonerate her of wrongdoing, that Fischer's office acknowledge that it made factually incorrect statements about the case, that LMAS create more oversight into its donation policy, and that the Metro Council adopt a whistleblower protection ordinance.

Fischer's administration made the changes to Adkins' personnel file Wednesday morning, Republican Councilman Kelly Downard, the committee's other co-chair, told WAVE 3 News.

A council panel advanced whistleblower protection legislation Tuesday, and the full council is likely to approve it Thursday, Downard said.

Fowler said bipartisan criticism of the scandal began when her investigative panel had a difficult time getting answers from Fischer's office.

"We're trying to do the right thing, and the right thing was not done by Sadie," Fowler said. "We need to go forward and make sure this doesn't happen again."

Fischer responded in an emailed statement late Wednesday, acknowledging that the investigation "found some weaknesses." Fischer's office made changes to donation and open records policies in response, the mayor said.

"It's very unfortunate what happened with Sadie," Fischer said. "We remain committed to moving forward and helping save as many animals as we can."

Chris Poynter, a Fischer spokesman, hadn't responded to an email from WAVE 3 News seeking answers to several questions late Wednesday.

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