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May 10, 2009 / V A Nichols

The importance of non-profit status: BJC animal control vendor

The current animal control vendor for the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, has held the contract for twelve years. And, for twelve years concerned citizens have tried to motivate their elected representatives to replace him.

It’s been a frustrating and unfulfilled effort, fraught with obstacles. From the beginning,  Jefferson County political cronies protected him and gave him carte blanche with taxpayer dollars.  When an audit was requested by the City, the contract holder provided a one page budget.

Jefferson County is required by state law to provide animal control for the county.  Although Birmingham pays the lion’s share of the contract cost, the county has assumed management of the contract. The county has shown little interest in oversight.  By county ordinance, the current animal control contract holder has been able to demand cash-only payment for adoption fees, holding fees, relinquishment fees, and fines.

The mayor of Birmingham is required to present the City Council with his recommended budget by May 20, 2009 for the fiscal year 2010. The animal control contract is part of the budget.

Over the past few weeks, the City  and the County have been debating the content of the RFP [Request for Proposal: contract requirements] for animal control. The sole sticking-point for the County is the City’s desired requirement of non-profit status for the animal control contract holder.

For years there have been allegations of the current, for profit,  contract holder cutting spending corners to improve his profitability.  One can only wonder, when repeated pleas are made to the public for food and blanket donations.

Non-profit status would remove the impenetrable cover from the fiscal operation of animal control.

A non-profit is required to file an annual 990 IRS form, laying open how the organization spends its funds.  By federal law, copies of this document are available to the public.

Citizens of Birmingham and Jefferson County are paying for the animal control contract with their tax dollars. This is not unlike being a stockholder in a public corporation.  As a stockholder, we would expect open meetings with management, and full transparency of financial matters. We should hold the same expectations for the management of animal control.

The best assurance for transparency and accountability, leading to improved animal welfare, is the non-profit status of the Birmingham-Jefferson County animal control contract holder.

If the county and the current contract holder have nothing to hide, why would they balk at non-profit status?

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