What is going on with our City? Well, certainly among other things, a cavalier disregard for the truth.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call letting me know that the Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall, while speaking to City Council in favor of a paper to increase the job category of the person heading Richmond Animal Care and Control, was asked by Councilman Charles Samuels whether the Memorandum of Understanding (City speak for a partnership agreement) between the City and the Richmond SPCA had been signed. This proposed agreement had been authorized by Council to be fully executed in the early fall of 2010. Mr. Marshall replied that, yes, it had.
That was surprising news to me since we had never signed the MOU, had never received a document for signature, had never been contacted by the City about getting the document signed, and I had contacted the City administration numerous times in an effort to get the MOU executed and had never received any meaningful response from them. I had raised this issue of the City not finalizing the MOU with us with several senior members of the City administration including the Mayor. He said that they would get back to us on it. They never did. After more than a year had passed of our trying to get the agreement finalized, our Board had come to the reasonable conclusion that the City had no intention of entering into a partnership agreement with us, and therefore, the Board needed to proceed with its strategic planning for this organization and the accomplishment of our mission to save animal lives without any partnership with the City. Seemed like the reasonable thing for us to do. How long can you or should you keep on banging your head against a wall?
So, we had to wonder why Mr. Marshall would stand before Council members and tell them that it had been signed? I decided that I should go to the next Council meeting in order to give them the correct information. Not because we wanted or expected an agreement to now get done but because I thought they deserved to know the truth of what had occurred.
On the evening of April 9, I explained to the Council members that no MOU had ever been signed between us despite many efforts on the part of the Richmond SPCA to get that to happen. As I was leaving City Hall, I was approached in the hallway by a member of the City Administration who was very unhappy with me about what I said. According to him, Mr. Marshall had said what he did to Council members because the City had signed the MOU itself. That’s right, the explanation is that Mr. Marshall was asked by Mr. Samuels if the City had signed it and he was saying that the City had done so, just the City. This explanation does not even meet the red face standard – a term our family has always used for a position that you cannot take without turning red in the face because it is so embarrassing. Signing an agreement unilaterally and then sticking it in a drawer and never getting the other party to sign it, never even delivering it to the other party or letting anyone know it has been signed does not meet any rational person’s definition of executing an agreement. The administration really will need to do better than that if they are to maintain any credibility.
Or do they even concern themselves with credibility?
I have now been asked by several Council members to ask our Board if they would still be interested in a partnership with the City. I will do so as soon as possible. I can know this much – this organization will do whatever we honestly believe will result in our being able to save the greatest number of animals’ lives. It is just that simple. Whether partnering with people that you cannot trust is likely to do that is really the question, isn’t it?
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.