by Jerry Dykhuisen…….

Dear Editor:

Having been raised in Chicago, I figured that I had witnessed government corruption raised to a fine art. After living here for a couple of decades, I must admit, however, that the Windy City has nothing on the powers that be in Monroe County.  With a school superintendent who steals nearly a half million dollars and does no jail time, a principal (who just happens to be the son of a previous superintendent) has tens of thousands of dollars disappear on his watch and is merely reassigned, and an administrator purchases cut rate electronics paid for by the county and keeps his job, the parade never seems to end.

The current mind boggler is the latest development in the Middle/Lower Keys animal control debacle. The Commission recently awarded a contract containing a nearly 60% increase to the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA) to provide animal control services to the Middle/Lower Keys. The organization was the only bidder – not surprising inasmuch as the Request For Proposal (RFP) was only advertised on one obscure online site.

What makes this scandalous is that some years ago, the vendor handling that same service, Stand Up For Animals (SUFA), had the temerity to request an increase in amount of their contract. The increase was in the neighborhood of 25%. When the County Commission reacted to the request as if SUFA was demanding their first-born child, the request was reduced to 15%. Keep in mind that it was commonly acknowledged, even by the Commission, that SUFA was doing an excellent job providing the required services. They maintained shelters in both Marathon and Big Pine and constantly had, by far, the lowest kill rate of any county provider.

Rather than react rationally, the Commission launched what by all appearances was a personal vendetta against the organization and its director. An allegedly neutral auditor was brought in (something to which no other animal control provider had ever been subjected) and a report was prepared (and leaked to the press) before SUFA had even seen it.  What’s more, the SUFA Director was never even interviewed by the auditor.

But the fix was in.  A bid process was established which was seemingly designed to steer the bid to the friend of a commissioner, e.g. the low bidder was not awarded the contract and at least one member of the “citizen panel” awarded the successful bidder a score of 10 out of 10 in the “Experience” category when that organization was brand new and had never before run a shelter or, for that matter, anything else.

There is no need to go into the details of S.H.A.R.K.’s failures. They could not even run one shelter for the amount of money SUFA used to run two.

But even then, the Commissioners could not let go of their desire for revenge against SUFA. Assets were frozen, lawsuits were filed, and when it was over, SUFA, had prevailed at every level. Between actual settlements, legal fees, and the cost of county staff time, more than a million dollars of taxpayer monies were wasted as a result of their petulance with the outcome that a reliable and competent organization and the career and reputation of an honorable individual were destroyed.

FKSPCA will be receiving almost a half million dollars to provide animal control services and to run a single shelter. Less than ten years ago, SUFA provided the same service and ran two shelters for less than half that amount. FKSPCA indicates that there are currently “eight dogs, 31 cats, and two gerbils” at the shelter. For much less money, SUFA cared for probably three times as many dogs and four times as many cats, but in the commissioners’ minds, they were too expensive.

It is said that numbers don’t lie. In this case the numbers seem to indicate that the petulance of our County Commissioners ran off a vendor who did twice the job for half the money.

Jerry Dykhuisen, Big Pine Key

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