The Uintah County Attorney’s Office has returned its findings in a months-long investigation into the Roosevelt Animal Shelter and a nonprofit rescue working with and at times within the Shelter. The investigation began in August of 2020. While a number of issues remain inconclusive, it was found that that insufficient supervision contributed to the issues investigated.
Roosevelt City acknowledges responsibility for the insufficient management of the shelter and the failure to ensure clear separation between the shelter and any and all pet rescues. The following actions have been or are being taken to address the identified problems and mitigate future risk:
-Scott Finlayson was appointed the new Roosevelt City Manager in October 2020.
-A new Chief of Police will be appointed in February 2021. The animal shelter falls under the jurisdiction of the Roosevelt Police Department.
-The shelter is under new management.
-Extensive budget review procedures have been implemented in which monthly budget reports are reviewed by the shelter director, Chief of Police, Finance Director, and City Manager.
-A complete overhaul of policies and operating procedures is underway with the assistance of Lexipol, a leader in municipal policies and procedures.
-Two positions that were put on hold this summer will be reactivated to allow the shelter to operate at full efficiency. These positions will be offered to employees previously placed on administrative leave based on merit and tenure.
-City administrators are taking steps to appropriately adjust the shelter’s budget, including accurate budgeting for veterinary care—an area where the City has not budgeted appropriately in the past.
-Bids are being sought now for building improvements that will lead to better animal safety and quality of life.
-Increased training opportunities will be made available to all shelter staff. This training will be provided in-house and by third parties as COVID-19 restrictions allow for travel.
-Shelter management and City administrators are working to establish a clear process for developing relationships with all eligible rescues in an effort to find good homes for animals as efficiently as possible.
The release of findings brings closure to a process that has stretched on for nearly five months. In August 2020, City administrators began a thorough investigation into the Roosevelt Animal Shelter at the request of shelter staff members and the public. In that process, concerns were brought to light of possible violations of the Utah State Code; therefore, the Roosevelt City Attorney determined that the City was obligated to undergo an extensive third-party investigation.
The City was aware from the beginning that it would not come out of the investigation unscathed. However, administrators and elected officials felt that it was essential to bring all possible issues to light in order to successfully make positive change at the Roosevelt Animal Shelter and begin the process of restoring public trust.
Investigators determined that a lack of oversight allowed the shelter and a local nonprofit, Furever Buddys Rescue, to comingle to the point that “they appear to be one and the same.” The report states that, “although we have been hard pressed to find any legal violations the entire situation is ripe for potential illegal conduct, not to mention the ethical concerns which although not illegal have the potential to erode public and taxpayer trust.”
While investigators were not able to determine if public monies benefitted the Rescue to the detriment of Roosevelt City, they did find evidence of other Utah State Code and Roosevelt City Code violations related to the adoption of animals by the rescue before they had met the holding time required by law. These are Class B Misdemeanor violations, but records did not show who had violated the Code. Therefore, the State could not go forward with such a charge.
Ultimately, investigators concluded that “the concerns and questions asked by the public about the animal shelter are merited. It is our recommendation that Roosevelt City put into place policies and procedures that will allow the Shelter to operate without its dependency on Furever Buddies [sic] Rescue.”
Roosevelt City accepts full responsibility for its role in the problems identified at the Roosevelt Animal Shelter and will follow the investigator’s recommendation by adhering to the list of actions above.