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City Council awaits Humane Society data

BY Spencer Durham - sdurham@chronicle-tribune.com

The Frankfort City Council is waiting on data from the Humane Society before deciding on its portion of funding for the trap, neuter, release program.

The Humane Society was on the council’s agenda Monday evening, but further discussion was tabled until the next council meeting, Sept. 24.

Council member Eric Woods said a committee met with representatives from the Humane Society. Representatives said they are still working on producing the information and data on the trap, neuter, release (TNR) program, Woods said.

“From our committee meeting, we found out that they are still working on that,” he said.

Interim Director Ben Pfeffer was unable to provide any information on the TNR program at the last council meeting on Aug. 27. He said he had not had the time to review the program, as at the time he had only been interim director for about a week.

The council decided to give Pfeffer three weeks to produce the data.

Clerk-treasurer Judy Sheets said there is still $10,000 available from what was budgeted this year for the Humane Society as the shelter has not requested all of it. Woods said it’s unlikely the rest of the money will be requested this year.

“They said they will not be making that request,” he said. “They will fill the rest of what they can do with the trap, neuter release program with the funds they have available.”

Sept. 24 will also serve as the first reading of the 2019 city budget. The amount available that has been budgeted for the Humane Society is $22,000. This amount will not be increased but could be trimmed or cut, depending on what action the council takes at the next meeting.

The council has given no indication on what it may decide in a couple weeks. However, Mayor Chris McBarnes has publicly called for the council to defund the animal shelter, following what he said was a lack of transparency.

McBarnes obtained the bylaws and articles of incorporation of the Humane Society and posted them on Facebook after members of the community had called for more transparency from the animal shelter’s board of directors.

McBarnes’ action was met with the threat of legal action from Tom Little, a local attorney and member of the board directors.

According to Steve Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, articles of incorporation are public knowledge. However, Pfeffer said bylaws are private and cannot be released without consent from the Humane Society. Both bylaws and articles of incorporation are included in the same document that was shared on Facebook. This is why the board threatened to take legal action, Pfeffer said.

“... My recommendation to the council is that we pull every penny of funding to the trap, neuter, release program until we are given the assurance that the community is going to be given transparency and the board answers questions and nothing is being hidden,” McBarnes told The Times after the incident occurred.

Pfeffer has called on cooler heads to prevail as the shelter picks up the pieces and funding is decided upon.