By Joe Johnson
The official who oversaw operations at the embattled Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division was forced to resign this week, according to an announcement Thursday by County Manager Blaine Williams.
Williams did not mention recent controversies at the Animal Control’s shelter as a reason for asking Central Services Director David Fluck to resign on Monday.
"After careful consideration, I decided that it would be best for the community and the department for a change in leadership moving forward. I want to thank David for his work for the Athens community and the Unified Government,” Williams said in his announcement.
As Central Services director for over a dozen years, Fluck was responsible for a range of county services, including the Facilities Management Division, which maintains county-owned property; the Fleet Management Division, the Landscape Management Division, and Internal Support, which provides services for such county departments as mailing services, printing services, copy services, parking, and telephone services. The department also handles special event permitting, publication rack permitting, and downtown vending permits.
But Fluck was also responsible for Animal Control and its shelter.
The dog section of the shelter was placed under quarantine by the Georgia Department of Agriculture on Sept. 3.
The quarantine was ordered only a month after more than 39 cats at the shelter were euthanized because of a feared panleuk outbreak, which turned out to be a false alarm.
A week later, the county commission’s audit committee unanimously voted in favor to ask the full commission to assign an audit of the shelter to the county’s Operational Analysis Office.
The committee’s vote came amid criticism from local animal welfare groups and commissioners following a series of mishaps at the shelter that led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 100 cats, according to an open letter signed by members of the Athens Area Humane Society, Three Paws Animal Rescue, Athens Canine Rescue and other organizations.
Those deaths “were directly due to a disturbing pattern of poor and uninformed decision-making by shelter management with respect to the health and lives of the shelter animals,” according to the letter.
They also accused Animal Control for having inadequate protocols to ensure animals were vaccinated upon arrival at the shelter, placing other animals at risk to being exposed to disease.
Williams has appointed Andrew Saunders to serve as Interim Director until a permanent replacement is named after a national search. Saunders has worked for the county since 2007 in various roles, including as the Community Forestry coordinator, Environmental coordinator, and Sustainability officer.