In a letter to the editor, outspoken Mayor Jimmy Davis administration critic Peter Franco outlines why he believes Liberty Humane Society needs to be the animal control provider in Bayonne.
In late September of last year our municipal law department on behalf of the business administrator issued a Request for Proposal to animal control service providers, which would ultimately cancel service with Liberty Humane Society in the middle of their contract.
On November 10th, the city council awarded a contract to New Jersey Animal Control & Rescue, a company owned and operated by Geoff Santini, a contractor previously terminated by the city of Bayonne.
Mr. Santini submitted his response to the city of Bayonne’s RFP lacking the most basic of requirements: insurance, certifications, and licensing documentation.
While Bayonne’s corporate counsel, Mr. Coffey, suggested this was not fatal to the process our elected officials voted 5-0 and awarded this contract to Mr. Santini who may not have been insured, certified, or had proper licensing at the time he would be providing service.
In response to this I organized a rally outside of city hall to inform the public. The rally and subsequent council meeting took place on December 16th, which was 15 days after service should have began with this new contractor.
However, the contractor failed to provide the proper documentation mentioned above and our city could not legally contract with him without opening itself up for major liability issues.
Shortly after the rally, we stood before our elected officials and spoke out against Mr. Santini and the contract.
During the council meeting we were repeatedly told by Mr. Coffey, that we (the opposition to this change in providers) didn’t have the actual contract and the language we were provided thru his law department was merely the contractor’s proposed contract.
We were assured that our concerns to include the concerns of animal welfare professionals from around the state would be addressed in the final contract before it was signed.
On December 23rd, just a week after our testimony before council a contract was finalized. Upon receipt of our Open Public Records request we obtained a copy of the signed contract.
What the law department actually did was take an old contract between the city of Bayonne and Mr. Santini’s former company Hudson County Animal Enforcement INC, and changed the headline and the signature line.
It was so blatantly obvious as the same grammatical errors that appeared in the 2012 contract existed in the 2015 contract. In addition, Hudson County Animal Enforcement INC, is mentioned in two other locations of this contract as a responsible authority.
Let’s think about this for a second. We now have a contract that fails to outline operational procedures, timeframes, and record keeping.
According to this contract we have an “accountable” company, HCAE INC, that is no longer in existence. The contractor has still failed to provide certification on 3 licensed animal shelters. What makes matters worse are the problems that we feared would happen, are now taking place.
Since the switch in providers on December 23, 2015 we have experienced issue after issue. From the most serious problems being lengthy delays in emergency and non-emergency response times as well as poor record keeping between the animal control officer and the city of Bayonne.
Residents have recorded unofficial averages for animal control emergency response times of around 6 hours and non-emergency over 12 hours. In one case with NJACR, the emergency response time was over 11 hours.
While unacceptable, our city officials had several opportunities to correct this. If the city overlooked an incomplete RFP when it was brought to the attention of the law department, the RFP could’ve been turned away.
City officials now have a chance to cancel the contract based on performance that has been unsatisfactory. While alternatives have been made available that are better options financially, logistically, and legally, there is no justification at this point for our city’s inaction.
I want to remind the residents this animal control battle is far from over. Our diplomatic efforts have given the administration every opportunity to correct this. We have made them aware of everything, therefore, they can no longer say “let’s see what happens.”
It’s happened and continues to happen. Now it’s time for us to spread the message city wide about the inaction of city hall. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors. Continue to record and document your dealings with animal control and forward emails and correspondence to your elected officials.
All correspondence can be accessed by request through the Open Public Records Act. This information is vital to legal and governing authorities as we seek the resolution Bayonne and its animals deserve.