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Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:51

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Reject Nominee for Animal Shelter Director

By | News

BALLSTON SPA – In front of a packed room at the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ March 19 meeting, 22-year-old Christina Abele learned she would not be appointed as the next director of the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, after the board voted to defeat the motion that would have put her in charge. 

 

The meeting caught the attention of animal lovers across Saratoga County, who came out to voice their opinions either for or against the appointment. Critics have pointed to Abele’s father being a political contributor to county Republicans, while others objected that the young woman’s lack of managerial experience was simply unacceptable when attempting to fill a vacancy such as the director of an animal shelter with an annual operating budget of $830,000. 

Public comments were heard from over two dozen county residents, most of which were against the move. Abele was not without her supporters though, and was the last to speak to the Board of Supervisors before it was moved to a vote. 

Among those speaking out against the decision to hire Abele were Jennifer Politis of the Capital District Humane Society and Cathy Cloutier of the SPCA. Both expressed serious doubt about whether Abele was prepared to undertake such a position having never worked in a managerial position. They questioned her abilities to contain outbreaks and work hands-on as a department director. 

“Talk is cheap,” said Politis. “What we are looking for is someone with proven experience.”

Abele recently graduated from an accelerated program at Siena College with a Bachelor’s degree in business management and had previously worked at the shelter as a volunteer dog walker and organized several adoption clinics in her time with the facility. She was touted as having been the only applicant with a plan for the shelter’s future, including ideas to increase revenue. 

One of the most outspoken critics, Carol Lang, operates a fundraiser known as the “Busy Bones 500,” which has raised thousands of dollars for the shelter since 2007. She reiterated her claim that she would pull any future funding from going to the shelter should the board continue with Abele’s appointment. Lang also noted that she had personal knowledge of more qualified applicants. 

Lang also pointed to the job requirements for the position, even postulating that they could have been tailored to her specifically. It was then determined that the job description itself is the same one that was used in 1979 when they hired the recently retired director Dan Butler. Other commenters urged the board to update those requirements in order to find a qualified director of the $5.3 million facility. 

The intensity of the back and forth between supporters and detractors reached a fever pitch when Abele finished her remarks, and it moved to the board for a decision. Ballston Spa Supervisor Patti Southworth motioned for a separate vote, which was sustained. There was then a motion to table the matter until next month’s meeting, but that was defeated.

Supervisors then offered their comments on the matter. Both Saratoga Springs supervisors, Matthew Veitch and Joanne Yepsen voted against the decision. Veitch said he was voting with his constituents. Yepsen was more forthright, subtly raising more speculation regarding the appointment.

“I just think the animals deserve a more transparent process and that the best person for the animals is not necessarily the most well-connected,” said Yepsen.  

Other Republicans, Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza and Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, joined Veitch in voting against Abele’s nomination. In all, there were 10 supervisors present in favor of the appointment and seven opposed. However, there were six absent supervisors from the meeting, each of which represented a “no” vote. In the end, Abele’s nomination was rejected. 

The shelter, located in Milton, is currently without a director as Dan Butler retired earlier this month. It is not known whether the search will be re-opened, or if the board will choose from applications they’ve already received. 

Abele has indicated she will reapply for the position if the search is reopened. 

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