Bibb County commissioners are taking over Macon’s animal shelter, but they want a new director.
Four commissioners voted together in committee Tuesday to begin advertising for a new director of animal control, launching a nationwide search. The effort was formalized by the commission Tuesday night.
Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said he and Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson toured the shelter last week.
“I was absolutely appalled by what I saw,” Edwards said.
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He asked Layson for a recommendation, and Layson replied: “We need to advertise for a director for that department.”
Edwards later told reporters that he wouldn’t discuss what should happen to employees. He discovered clean kennels with fresh water last week, but that was reportedly on the same date as a state inspection. Things were still bad.
“Roaches were running around. The smell was terrible, just bad, bad conditions,” Edwards said.
The department is now overseen by Macon, but it will transfer to Bibb County control July 1.
Macon removed Jim Johnson, the agency’s director, from oversight of day-to-day operations in April. Jami Gaudet, spokeswoman for the Macon Police Department, which oversees animal control, said Tuesday that Johnson remains the director and is working on transitioning the department to county governance.
“The staff is dividing the daily responsibilities,” Gaudet wrote in an e-mail.
Johnson was removed in April after animal adoption groups circulated a photo showing a water bowl containing urine-colored liquid said to contain roundworms. They also reported a beagle with a broken back had been left in its urine and feces over a weekend until a volunteer took it for euthanization.
Johnson and another employee were fired last August after an internal city audit found more than $18,000 in shelter money was unaccounted for. An administrative law judge returned Johnson to the post in January, saying Johnson’s termination was “too severe” a punishment.
The judge ruled Johnson waived adoption fees without authority and violated other policies centered on cash handling. The judge ordered Johnson’s assistant to be reinstated as well, but she resigned.
Animal welfare organizations have rallied behind Van VanDeWalker, who was interim animal control director in Johnson’s absence.
Edwards said he wants a nationwide search for the best person, who may turn out to be local.
Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he hopes Johnson makes some decisions about his future. He declined to say whether he hopes Johnson leaves. For people in such situations, Hart said, “You can suspect that you’d be looking elsewhere.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.