ARC Owners Want Pocahontas Commission To Reopen Bid For Animal Contract
Marlinton, WV – It was no secret that John Fitzgerald and JP Duncan, owners of the Allegheny Recreation Center in Marlinton were not happy when they lost the bid for the Pocahontas County animal shelter contract to former county animal control officer Sandy Mallow. Both men appeared before the Pocahontas County Commission Tuesday to urge them to reconsider the awarding of that contract. They assert that Ms. Mallow has not met the requirements of the contract, and that the animals under her supervision are not being properly cared for.
Mallow was given the shelter contract on July 1st, based on her bid of $45,400.00. ARC’s bid was $74,400.00. Mallow’s contract was contingent on making necessary improvements to the northern Pocahontas County facility. She was given 60 days to make those improvements and assured the Commissioners that would be ample time to complete the work. On September 1st, Pocahontas County Commissioner Jamie Walker, accompanied by Fitzgerald and Duncan, toured her facility. Walker spoke about what he saw during the Commission meeting.
“I went up on September the 1st; the hot water heater was sitting in a box on the floor, the sink had not been hooked up at that point to the hot water or to the cold water,” says Walker. “We talked about the insurance, she said that they had been working on the insurance, but she hadn’t been able to get it worked out yet. And the food storage, she had one bag of dog food that she showed me sitting in the room where she keeps her cats. Them’s [sic] the three things that bothered me and in my opinion, she voided her contract.”
Walker says when he got home that evening he saw emails from Mallow indicating that all three of the problems had been taken care of. He and Commission President David Fleming have differing opinions of what that represents.
“So that was obvious to me at that point that she didn’t make too much effort to get it done, or it would have been done prior to me going up there,” says Walker.
“I’m going to strongly disagree with the effort put in,” says Fleming. “I’ve visited the facility three times, including yesterday and watched it go from nothing to quite a bit of something.”
“Well I can’t say I don’t disagree with that,” says Walker, “but still yet, a deal is a deal, and a deal was not met in the 60 days.”
John Fitzgerald gave the Commissioners a copy of a report prepared by their hired private investigator Christopher Giannini, who also toured Mallow’s facility along with Walker. In addition to the problems already mentioned by Walker, the report also lists such problems as cages with two to three dogs but only one plastic shelter, incomplete concrete pads in some of the cages, and no signs designating quarantine or exercise areas. Fitzgerald says he and Duncan were also distressed to find one of their former shelter dogs, an Alaskan Malamute named Chinook.
In late June, Chinook had been picked up from the ARC shelter by the Pocahontas County Humane Society because he was to go out as a rescue. Fitzgerald and Duncan were happy because they thought the dog had finally found a loving home. Instead they found Chinook in the same area as Mallow’s personal dogs.
“We found Chinook tied to a 3 foot rusty chain inside of a cage standing in his own feces and urine,” says Fitzgerald.
When Fitzgerald spoke about this at the Commission meeting, Commissioner Martin Saffer said it’s unfair to judge an entire shelter based on just one incident. But Fitzgerald pointed out that the investigators report also includes a long laundry list of deficiencies in Mallow’s bid specifications. Commissioner Fleming remained unconvinced.
“That’s up to the judgement of the Commission as a body as to whether those requirements were met,” says Fleming. “As a body, how many of you visited it?” asks Fitzgerald. “I visited it three times,” says Fleming.
“And you condone this?” asks Fitzgerald. “I think she’s made a lot of progress ,” says Fleming.
“That ain’t what I’m asking,” says Fitgerald, “do you condone this?”
“I saw the shelter, it meets my satisfaction,” says Fleming.
Following this exchange, Fleming closed the discussion on the matter. Later, Fitgerald reflected on the Commissioners’ reaction.
“They wouldn’t hear that, they wouldn’t even look at the pictures that was [sic] taken,” he says. “They were concerned more about the money they were saving. I was in hopes that they would take a look at the pictures and see what they have got for their money.
Fitzgerald says Giannini told him that he has filed a complaint with the Sheriffs’ office against Mallow and the Commission for Cruelty to Animals and plans to file his report with the West Virginia Attorney General’s office and the state auditor. Fitzgerald says they have not ruled out further legal action against the Commission’s decision in this matter.