Several public statements regarding Doña Ana County’s controversial contract negotiations in Barkhouse differed greatly from the documentary evidence. District Manager Fernando Macias and / or former Animal Control Manager Jeanne Quintero made these statements and appeared to be ignoring credible negative information regarding Barkhouse. (Last week, Barkhouse refused to continue.)
A court ruling against Kelly Barker for scamming people over $ 50,000 seemed like a big warning. Macias said Friday the verdict meant little because it was from 2009 (when Barker was in his fifties) and because the county had a positive experience with Barkhouse. Macias also stressed that this contract was just one of many matters he was dealing with, and that the proposed contract covered a six-month pilot project where the county could evaluate both the four-step plan and Barkhouse’s performance.
I was also concerned that Barkhouse attacked critics and had a lawyer send threatening letters, and that Barker alleged “sabotage” by county employees in March – but asked that any investigation be postponed until after the contract was signed. I thought Macias should investigate immediately and either protect the employees or punish them. but Macias says he has never heard of the allegation.
When people asked if Barkhouse could keep his own dogs in the County Hold facility, officials said, “[A]ll the animals [housed therein] are county animals; “However, in an email from Barker to Quintero on February 8, it said:”[T]These are NOT county dogs, these are ours. In April, Macias called it “a misunderstanding” that Barkhouse County allowed the Hold facility to run its business. On Friday, Macias said that every dog in the facility was legally owned by the county and that he advised everyone to do so about two months ago.
Officials also said, “Barkhouse volunteers have no keys or access” to the County Hold facility, but on March 30, Quintero told Barker, “The key ring should be ready for Barkhouse use tomorrow.” Other emails suggest that Barkhouse had free access to the facility. (Macias says he didn’t know about it.)
When asked by Commissioner Shannon Reynolds about a March 29 Cessna charter to bring dogs out of the state, Macias replied that the county had paid nothing. But South Aero billed the county $ 13,294. Macias readily admitted on Friday that he had been misinformed.
February emails also show Barker clearing up Quintero after a county employee was honest with a veterinarian about the maturity of some pups. (Apparently the pups were weaned in early February, but disclosure ahead of the scheduled February 26 flight would delay the matter and charge fees for more than just the one health certificate required for a nursing mother. Barker writes it “is clear “Said the clerk” I can’t be a team player. “Barker then suggests moving county dogs and barkhouse dogs to separate wings.
Macias points out that many of these emails have not reached his level (and usually wouldn’t) and that Quintero (who has not yet returned my calls) made the most questionable public statements. Still, the amount of obvious misinformation is worrying.
I do not agree with the allegations of corruption here. However, I think there was a lack of due diligence. and management should have been more open and shouldn’t have largely ruled out criticism as “other operations that want some of the money”. Officials appeared to be circling the cars around Barkhouse. If I were a Commissioner, I would ask some serious questions.
That being said, I totally agree with Macias that we need to do something about our homeless dog population, starting with a nationwide spay and neuter ramp-up program.
Peter Goodman, a Las Cruces resident, writes, takes pictures, and occasionally practices as a lawyer. His blog at http://soledadcanyon.blogspot.com/ has more information on this column.