BURGAW, NC (ANDY PETTIGREW W/ THE POST & VOICE) -- Strong accusations of misconduct by Pender County Animal Shelter employees were brought before county commissioners Monday. A group of shelter volunteers, lead by Greg Campbell of Hampstead, brought allegations of theft of county property, misuse of materials donated to the shelter, abuse of animals, and other misconduct. Campbell, who said he had been involved in animal welfare issues for more than 30 years in the Chicago and Charlotte areas, laid the responsibility for the misconduct at the feet of shelter manager Darlene Clewis. Clewis was present at the commissioners meeting, but did not speak to the board or answer any of the allegations. Volunteers were also upset after attending the required orientation for shelter volunteers, but had not been called to help at the shelter. Several shelter volunteers spoke to commissioners, accusing shelter employees of stealing animal food that had been donated, blankets, towels, tarps, and a washer and dryer. Employees were accused of not properly taking care of the animals, mishandling cash donations to the shelter, and not working while being paid. One volunteer called the shelter a “den of thieves.” Campbell asked the commissioners to take reasonability for the situation at the shelter. “We knew where we stood with the Sheriff’s Department. Their priority was animal control, not the shelter,” Campbell said. Shelter operation has been under the supervision of the county manager’s office for the past several months. County manager Mickey Duvall said he had taken steps to put policies in place at the shelter and a discussion of policies and procedures was on the Feb. 19 commissioners meeting agenda. County Information Technology Services director Erik Harvey told the board his department was working on security for the shelter at the direction of Duvall, including cameras and electronic locks to monitor the building and grounds. Commissioners were disturbed by the accusations of misconduct and theft. Chairman George Brown asked Sheriff Carson Smith about investigating the accusations. “It may be possible I can bring in another agency to do it for us. I don’t think I can investigate anything that will come up with an answer that will make them happy,” Smith said. “There is the possibility that some criminal activity could have taken place out there. If there is anything concrete, I think it needs to be looked into. There is no way I can really respond to all this.” Commissioner Jimmy Tate expressed a desire to move ahead and fix the problem. “Where do we go as a board from here? Either the manager’s office can manage the shelter or they can’t and we need to admit that and move it to someone who can. I’m tired of revisiting this issue,” Tate said. “There is no resolution. It seems to be getting worse.” Duvall said he took the shelter under his management by request of the board. But the demands of his office would not allow this to be a permanent solution. “I said I would be happy to set some policies and guidelines but eventually we would have to move it because of my work on the budget,” Duvall said. “We have had the shelter about two months.” Duvall said progress has been made with plans for a shelter advisory board and the security upgrades at the shelter. The five-member advisory board will consist of a commissioner, a veterinarian, the county health department director, a local animal rights advocate, and a citizen at large.
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