Today's editorial notes that public-official blustering does nothing to resolve the problems plaguing the Horry County aminal shelter:
As Horry County Councilman Al Allen is finding out, lobbing ultimatums at public problems when you lack the leverage to enforce them could make those problems worse. The Aynor-based councilman rightly wants to resolve the ongoing management mess at the county's animal shelter. To that end, he recently demanded - publicly - the resignation of the board president of the Horry County Humane Society, which runs the shelter under contract with the county.
But at a meeting of the council's public safety committee meeting this week, the society board official in question, Kate Philips, refused to resign. Philips told the committee she had intended to resign until Allen issued his public resignation call.
Because Allen has damaged her reputation, she said, she could not resign the board presidency. Resignation under such circumstances could injure her personal business.
Oops. Talk about making a painful situation even worse.
Sure, the humane society is on the ropes due to its questionable handling of recent disease outbreaks that resulted in the untimely deaths of dozens of dogs and cats. Beset by finger-pointing, second-guessing and staff dissension, the society recently accepted the county's offer of temporary assistance in operating the shelter until the society returns to stability.
But as Philips' push-back against Allen shows, the society's problems don't give council members the power to boss it around and bad-mouth its leaders. The county has no operational control of the shelter. It has control only of the $536,000 contract under which the society operates the shelter.
Sure, the council could fire the society and void the contract as early as next month. But then what? The county would have to find some other private entity to run the shelter. What organizational board in its right mind would want a follow-on contract to the humane society, given Horry County's endemic unwanted-animal-hellhole nature?
The county could always go back to operating the shelter itself, as it did until 2006. But as readers will recall, that didn't go terribly well. A now-all-but-forgotten disease outbreak resulting in the needless deaths of dozens of animals prompted the council to go the private contract route. The humane society, which did not previously exist, came together specifically to take over the shelter.
Allen is right to question the society's ability to perform the contract. Its former management didn't cover itself in glory in dealing with the November canine distemper outbreak that started all the trouble. And ongoing staff unhappiness has rendered the organization temporarily dysfunctional, which is why the county stepped in to help with daily operations last week.
The council's objective now should be to determine whether the existing contract is worth salvaging. To that end, the council should approve the public safety committee's call for an audit of society finances and cost-benefit analysis of private vs. county management of the shelter long term. That information would be useful in answering the what-next question.
But for now, at least, the county needs the society as much as the society needs the county. If folks on both sides truly have animal welfare uppermost in mind, they'll try to remember that and treat each other with respect.