Former Animal Shelter Operators Sue Pocahontas County Commission

Marlinton, WV – The former operators of the Pocahontas County animal shelter in Marlinton have sued the Pocahontas County Commission, claiming that the Commission improperly awarded the shelter contract to a Durbin-area resident. Contractors John Fitzgerald and J.P. Duncan operated the county animal shelter for 18 months, at a county-owned building in Marlinton. The Pocahontas County SPCA provided personnel and logistical support to the facility, which was located in the former Hanover Shoe factory building.

The county commission advertised for bids for shelter operation in June 2011 and received two bids. Durbin-area resident Sandra Mallow submitted a bid of $45,500; and Fitzgerald and Duncan submitted a bid of $74,400.

On July 1, 2011, after awarding the shelter contract to Mallow, animals and cages were removed from the indoor shelter in the county seat to Mallow’s outdoor shelter site on Back Mountain Road in northern Pocahontas County. Fitzgerald and Duncan, through their attorney Thomas White, filed a petition with the Pocahontas County Circuit Court on January 10, alleging that the commission improperly awarded the contract to Mallow.

The petition notes that the county commission is required by West Virginia law to provide a suitable place for impounding dogs, with the proper provisions for their feeding and care.
Petitioners Fitzgerald and Duncan allege that Mallow’s shelter did not meet the advertised bid specifications, despite a $5,500 up-front payment. Paragraph 11 of the complaint reads:

“The requirements for a successful bid included, among other things, maintenance of appropriate insurance for the structure and activities of an animal shelter, bathing facilities for the animals with hot and cold water, a separate quarantine area for new arrivals, daily cleaning and sanitizing of the facility, and a written description of the facilities to be used.”

The complaint claims the entire commission did not visit Mallow’s site prior to awarding of the contract, but that Commissioner Jamie Walker visited the site with Fitzgerald and Duncan, 60 days after the animals and cages were transported to Mallow’s site, when conditions were allegedly found to be inadequate. Paragraph 22 of the complaint reads:

“Subsequent to awarding the bids, and on or about September 1, 2011 (60 days after awarding of the bid), Petitioners, along with Commissioner Jamie Walker toured Mallow’s facility. At that time, Mallow still had yet to produce an adequate facility or comply with all of the bid specifications. Specifically, Mallow did not have adequate general liability insurance; many dog kennels were covered only by blue tarps and others were only covered by an incomplete wooden roof; there was no bathing facility with hot and cold running water; many dogs were kept in kennels that had not been adequately sanitized; and the cats were housed in crowded conditions in cages stacked on top of one another.”

The Petitioners request that the court issue a Writ of Mandamus, ordering the Commission to award the contract to Fitzgerald and Duncan and pay unspecified damages for the partners’ economic loss, as well as other relief the court deems just and proper.

The commission has a deadline of January 30 to file a response to the petition. AMR will report further developments in this case, as they become available.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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