ANIMAL WATCH-At the December 12, 2017, evening meeting of the LA Animal Services Commission to discuss approval of performing a feasibility study on feeding vegan food to the impounded dogs in all city shelters, GM Brenda Barnette, Commission President Larry Gross, and Assistant City Attorney Dov Lesel acquiesced to the persistence of two of Mayor Eric Garcetti's appointees, Roger Wolfson and Layne Dicker (photos above) -- turning an official hearing into a bully pulpit opportunity for their egocentric rants and grandstanding.
In a city plagued by dog attacks, stray animals and shelter overcrowding, the Commission, which legally heads the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, sunk to an embarrassing low in public governance, as two middle-aged, T-shirt clad Commissioners engaged in juvenile vying for attention. Dicker finally resorted to vulgar expletives, which he seemed to find amusing.
COMMISSIONER LAYNE DICKER ON DECEMBER 12, 2017:
Commissioner Dicker's locker-room talk during "Future Agenda Items" was, in my opinion, a blatant display of disdain for official decorum and extremely disrespectful to the many attendees of both genders. You judge whether the following is acceptable conduct for a member of the Board that controls a City department and a representative of the Mayor. (Dicker is also an attorney with an active license, listed by the California State Bar as first admitted in 1984. He has his own page on the Best Friends Animal Society website.)
After pontificating on his vision of the future of animal sheltering, Dicker (who has no reported animal-sheltering management experience) announced, "The most frustrating thing to me as a Commissioner has been the painful progress of the EIR and the fucked injunction."
He stopped long enough for response and got only two very nervous laughs from the audience. He commented, "Sorry, I will never run for public office."
He then continued, "I would love to pledge and to engage you guys in writing three e-mails a week to somebody who is involved in this EIR and injunction process and say, "I am a taxpayer. I am a citizen. I am a voter. Get off your ass."
(The “injunction” to which he referred was issued by the Superior Court regarding use of taxpayer funds for trap/neuter/release of feral cats.)
This received loud applause from one person. Dicker responded, "Applause from the commission." Although the source of the clapping is not determinable on the audio, the male voice saying, "Yes," into a microphone sounded like Roger Wolfson. (Commission audio here.)
IS THIS WHAT MAYOR GARCETTI EXPECTS?
The Brown Act, Roberts' Rules of Order and -- some believe, City ethics -- are being ignored in deference to Wolfson and Dicker’s lengthy monologues about their "feelings" and the "miracles” and innovations their wisdom will confer upon the future of LA animals. Other Commissioners' opinions are often interrupted or drowned out, and State laws governing the care and control of animals are rarely mentioned.
On Dec. 12, Wolfson read an 18-minute speech from his computer, while public comment (the supposed intention of the meeting) was limited to one-minute per speaker. He announced that he had prepared his speech before he knew there was a time limit but was going to read it anyway. This risked robbing some of the public from being heard.
COMMISSIONERS WOLFSON AND DICKER HAVE AGENDA LISTS
Shortly after being appointed, Commissioner Dicker announced and commented individually on his 17-issue “short list” of things he wanted agendized as potential programs or changes to LAAS, as President Gross urged him to allow the meeting to continue.
That may have been prompted by Wolfson's list of the "11 major initiatives he has introduced and his next 14 proposals for LAAS."
VEGAN DOG FOOD ISSUE BRINGS OUT THE BULLY IN WOLFSON
The vegan dog issue appears to have unleashed a public bully side of Roger Wolfson as he brutally degraded and insulted Chief Veterinarian Jeremy Prupas on November 28 regarding a staff report recommending that the Board deny the request to feed vegan food to shelter dogs. (Commission discussion resulted in the request for approval of a feasibility study and financial analysis.)
Dr. Prupas chose to take the verbal lashing himself, rather than risk social-media attacks on his professional colleagues who contributed opinions on the inadvisability of feeding vegan dog food to an entire shelter population. Dr. Prupas found that no shelter in the country has such a policy.
Yet, at the Dec. 12 meeting, Wolfson complained that he had received e-mails containing vitriol and said, "I like to sleep at night and it is rough to be attacked."
COMMISSIONER ROGER WOLFSON ON DEC. 12:
It appears Commissioner Wolfson may not have been totally forthcoming at the Dec. 12 meeting where, after revealing that he had been recruited by the Mayor's office for this Commission because of his policy-making background, he added that he thought introducing vegan dog food was "not a big deal."
He said he was surprised at all the publicity and the speakers on Nov. 28, including Moby and Cheri Shankar (a fundraiser for the Mayor, who stated she "looks forward to a 'yes' vote for a pilot program.")
But, here are some posts on his Commissioner Wolfson, Public Figure, Facebook page:
November 20, 2017
I'm putting a Vegan Dog Food initiative on the table at the hearing this coming Tuesday, November 28th, in City Hall (room 1060). More to come...
A visitor on November 23, 2017, asked: What is the name of the animal commission, who spoke at the pig vigil, who is definitely going to vote yes?
Wolfson responded on· November 23, 2017:
Roger Wolfson: I was the commissioner who spoke at the event. I don't know which of the commissioners plans to vote for it, and the Brown Act prevents me from asking them. I've heard rumors that at least two are interested. More about the commissioners (including their contact info): Roger Wolfson
SPEAKERS AT THE NOV. 28 MEETING WERE POSTED IN ADVANCE:
After a video of Wolfson announcing his efforts at the "pig vigil," there was a post by Los Angeles Animal Save › Help Get Vegan Dog Food in LA City Shelters:
GREAT NEWS!! Commissioner Roger Wolfson is introducing an initiative at this 11/28 city hall meeting to get ALL VEGAN DOG FOOD into the six Los Angeles city shelters!! . . .We need 3 of the 5 commissioners to vote YES for this initiative to PASS! JOIN US!
Amy Jean Davis
Dr. Armaiti May
WOLFSON'S DEC. 12 SPEECH ON VIDEO
Hear the Case for Plant-Based Dog Food for Los Angeles Shelter Dogs! Check out this history making proposal, by Commissioner Roger Wolfson of LA Animal Services
THE BROWN ACT AND ETHICS
There is also that pesky little issue of prohibition of "serial" meetings, violating the Brown Act, and possible conflict of interest in arranging financial accommodations for procurement of City services/products (in this case, vegan dog food) which are being questioned by a very astute discussion group at LAAS: No Vegan Dog Food.
At an Oct. 10, 2017, overview of the Brown Act, Asst. City Attorney Dov Lesel advised the Commissioners that a member of the Board, “…cannot steer something to in their own favor or that of a friend. . .and that even the appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to trigger a conflict under the City’s Ethics Laws."
Commissioner Wolfson announced on Nov. 28 that he is in receipt of two commitment letters from nationally regarded and recognized plant-based dog food companies that are willing to match the price of $0.87/lb which is now paid for meat-based dog food; and Marc Ching’s foundation is willing to beat the price and save LAAS thousands of dollars a year.
Does such an announcement by the Commissioner and receipt of an offer by Mr. Ching call into question compliance with the City's competitive-bidding code?
Gov’t Code § 54952.2(b)(1). “[a] majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”
WHY DOES WOLFSON WANT TO AVOID CITY COUNCIL REVIEW?
Here's an excerpt from a discussion at the 12/12 meeting between GM Barnette, Commissioner Alisa Finsten, and Commissioner Wolfson:
Commissioner Wolfson . . .mentioned that he had hoped. . . to amend Item C to include an explanation of the procurement process, including an overview of what would be required so that a change in procurement could be cost-neutral to the Department, require no additional funding and not require the involvement of City Council.
GM Barnette replied that she doubts that they can avoid including the City Council. Commissioner Finsten added that the Board does not have the ability to make decisions about procurement. GM Barnette agreed with Commissioner Finsten and added that City Council will probably want to look at the procurement process.
Commissioner Wolfson clarified that he wants item C of the report to include a description of what the procurement process is and how this could be structured to be cost-neutral and not require the involvement of City Council. (Read here)
LAAS: VEGAN IS NOT AN OPTION
Following is the link to a group opposing this food change for LA Animal Services' shelter dogs. There are dozens of commenters who, hopefully, will add to our CityWatch discussion, along with those who favor the proposal. Also, below is the link to a petition to the "Dogs are Not Vegan" petition.
LAAS: VEGAN IS NOT AN OPTION - ORGANIZING TO PREVENT LOS ANGELES ANIMAL SERVICES COMMISSIONERS FROM CREATING POLICY THAT WILL FEED DOGS IN LAAS SHELTERS A VEGAN BASED DIET, REMOVING THEIR CURRENT ANIMAL PROTEIN BASED DOG FOODS.
Dogs Are Not Vegan: A Petition to the LA City Mayor, City Attorney and Ethics.
DO YOU HAVE RESEARCH ON PLANT-BASED AND/OR MEAT/BASED DOG FOOD?
GM Brenda Barnette confirmed that she will accept any and all research and peer-reviewed articles via her City e-mail, [email protected] and asked to be copied on any research papers sent to the Commissioners, so that they can be catalogued. She clarified that she will not consider opinions unless there are credentialed and have a basis in science.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.