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Louisville Metro Animal Services interim director Wayne Zelinsky has resigned.

The announcement comes weeks into a review of the department ordered by Mayor Greg Fischer.

For more than a year, LMAS has been the target of criticism. Zelinsky became interim director after former director Gilles Meloche resigned amidst allegations of mistreatment of animals and improper behavior. Zelinsky has been named in lawsuits brought by employees, and is also under investigation by the police public integrity unit.

Deputy director of MetroSafe Debbie Fox will be the new interim director of LMAS. She will serve until April, when a permanent director is appointed.

WFPL will have more on this story this afternoon. Mayor Fischer will speak about the matter at a 1:00 press conference.

Below is the announcement from Fischer’s office.

Mayor Greg Fischer today named Debbie Fox as the new interim leader of Metro Animal Services, following the resignation of Director Wayne Zelinsky.

Fox, currently Deputy Director of MetroSafe, will oversee animal control for the city while the Fischer administration conducts a national search for a new full-time director and completes a top-to-bottom review of Animal Services.

Fox will remain in the new role until April, when Fischer plans to name a permanent director for Animal Services. She was named Communications Center Director of Year in 2010 by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

“Debbie is a solid leader who has been nationally recognized and has a proven track record in customer service,” Fischer said. “I’m confident that she will effectively manage Animal Services during this transition period.”

Last month, Fischer named a committee to audit Animal Services and a separate committee to search for a new leader. The review and search are being overseen by Sadiqa Reynolds, Chief of Community Building for the city. Applications for the Director of Animal Services are being accepted until Feb. 14.

Zelinsky submitted his resignation, effective immediately, this morning.

Here is the story from WFPL:


The embattled director of Louisville Metro Animal Services has resigned.

Wayne Zelinsky had been interim director since Dr. Gilles Meloche stepped down amid accusations of mistreating animals and employees. Zelinsky was also controversial. He is named in two lawsuits and was allegedly operating an adult-themed entertainment business online. Zelinsky resigned after being confronted about the business.

“We advised Wayne [Tuesday] night that we were aware of a website that he had up and running and needed to discuss that with him and he came in [Wednesday] morning and resigned,” says Mayor Greg Fischer.

Last month, Fischer ordered a full review of LMAS and launched a national search for a new director. He said then he would keep Zelinsky in charge of the department, unless the auditors recommended otherwise. Fischer says the search for a permanent director will continue, though he’s not sure about the progress of the audit.

“You know, I make it a matter not to really get in the middle of audits while they’re going on because they start and then you never know what they’re going to find out. They’re hard at work right now. We’ll get a report on it at the end of the first quarter. We’re progressing with the audit, that’s all I know at this point,” he says.

Zelinsky will be replaced by current MetroSafe deputy director Debbie Fox. A permanent director will be named in April.

Take a look at this story from WFPL:

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer delivered his first State of the City address Thursday.

You can read and listen to the speech here

Fischer acknowledged the city’s shortcomings and said Louisville must rise above the second tier: The city has lost thousands of jobs in the last decade; educated residents have moved away; and current graduation rates are below expectations.

Fischer says he wants the Brookings Institution to help craft a new economic development plan—a plan that includes working with nearby cities.

“I’ve spoken with the respected Brookings Institution to work with us to develop a new economic blueprint—a plan that includes Louisville working together with Lexington to grow the I-64 corridor into a super-region, along with the I-65 corridor,” he said, later adding that the consequences for not reaching beyond the city border could be dire.

“We need to look at our geographical cluster—Louisville, Lexington, E-town, Southern Indiana—as a geographic cluster that in 20 years will be viewed as a mega-city by the world. If we don’t have that population mass of 2.5-3 million, we will not be relevant in the view of the world 20 years from now,” said Fischer.

Fischer also acknowledged an $18 million gap in the city budget. While the economy played a role in the shortfall, most of the gap comes from a legal settlement with retired firefighters. Afterward, the mayor said he’s not sure how he will make up for the gap when he drafts the budget for the next fiscal year.

“Well we’re five months away from that right now, so we’ll be diving into that over the next 30 to 60 days and it’s just to early to comment on,” he said. “We’ve got to balance it, obviously, so we will.”

Fischer says he is determined not to raise taxes. The city budget has come up short for the last three years. Cuts in those budgets included layoffs and the sale of city property and equipment.

Compare Fischer’s first State of the City to former Mayor Jerry Abramson‘s last. Here is WFPL’s coverage:

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson delivered his final State of the City address Thursday to the Rotary Club. The speech included his vision for Louisville over the next five years.

The mayor says many of the accomplishments during the period will be the continuation or completion of projects he’s championed in the last few years. They include the Museum Plaza complex, expanded operations at G.E.’s Appliance Park and Ford’s two Kentucky plants, and the start of construction on two new Ohio River Bridges.

“My hope is by the end of this year—by the end of my administration—the bi-state authority will have a game plan and a financial plan in place to finance the construction of the two bridges and the reconstruct of Spaghetti Junction,” he says.

The mayor says the city will have to work with Southern Indiana and the rest of Kentucky to be successful.

“We have become of aware of the importance of understanding how what’s happening around us affects us directly,” he says. “And look at what I’m talking about when you focus on Fort Knox.”

The only element of Abramson’s plan that will come online while he’s still in office is the new downtown arena. It will open in November, just before Abramson leaves office to run for Lt. Governor next year.

Abramson’s speech looked ahead to 2015–a year when he imagined the city would be coming alive with new developments and attractions. Fischer, however, said Louisville will be irrelevant by 2031 if it does not work more closely with Lexington, southern Indiana and Elizabethtown, a partnership Abramson nodded to.

When you look at it this way, the difference between the two mayors’ visions for the city is stark. Like Abramson, Fischer didn’t hide his affinity for Louisville, but the new mayor also described the city as one that’s at risk of becoming out of date and has to overcome a decade of declining employment and education in order to survive.

On WFPL, I reported about some difficulties Louisville (and many cities and states) may soon have pursuing green initiatives. Sustainable construction and improvements cost money. For the last two years, much of the money for these projects came from the federal stimulus package. Without the stimulus money and without earmarks (most likely), it will be hard for cities and states to afford these projects.

Mayor Greg Fischer says he’s aware of this, and he says the cost difference between standard development and green development has shrunk. That’s the up-front cost, though. In the long run, it’s possible that these improvements will pay for themselves (and then some), with lower utility bills.

This is what happens when an economic recession overlaps with the run-up to an environmental catastrophe. Cash-strapped cities would benefit from green developments, but they can’t afford the cost of entry.

After first naming the committee that will search for a new health director, Mayor Greg Fischer has appointed the members of two more committees. The latest panels will oversee the review of Metro Animal Services and the search for a new director.

From the Mayor’s office:

The six-person committee to conduct the performance review includes:

  • Allison Woosley, a CPA and animal advocate
  • Lindsy Wallace, Director of Operations for the Kentucky Humane Society
  • Karen Little, Alley Cat Advocates
  • Dr. Lee Hankins, veterinarian at Springhurst Animal Hospital
  • Mike Norman, Auditor, Louisville Metro Government
  • Jim Brammell, Chief Engineer, Louisville Water Company and member of SPOT Fund

The eight-person committee to conduct a national search for a new director includes:

  • Sadiqa Reynolds, Chief of Community Building for Mayor Fischer
  • Lori Redmon, Kentucky Humane Society
  • David Hall, Floyd County/New Albany Animal Control and Shelter
  • Terri Cardwell, business owner and member of SPOT Fund
  • Patti Swope, business executive and animal advocate
  • Kellie Watson, Director of Human Resources, Louisville Metro Government
  • Jessica Reid, No Kill Louisville
  • Police Chief Robert White or his designee

Once the search committee narrows its list to six finalists, a separate review team will provide additional input and narrow the list to three, which it will recommend to the Mayor. That review team includes:

  • Sharon Mays, Shamrock Society
  • Bunny Zeller, Animal Care Society
  • Ellen Cullinan, citizen and volunteer
  • Donna Herzig, Louisville Kennel Club
  • Metro Council Member Kelly Downard
  • Metro Council Member Tina Ward-Pugh

Council members Kelly Downard and Tina Ward-Pugh were likely among the clearest choices for the final group. Both were active in questioning former director Gilles Meloche whenever he appeared in the council.

 

Mayor Greg Fischer has released the names of the members of the committee that will search for a new Public Health and Wellness Director. The new director will replace Dr. Adewale Troutman, who is leaving the post for a job in Flordia.

Here are the committee members:

  • Sadiqa Reynolds, Chief of Community Building for Mayor Fischer
  • Bill Altman, Chairman of the Louisville Board of Health
  • Bill Wagner, Director of Louisville Family Health Centers
  • Richard Clover, Dean of the U of L School of Public Health and Information Sciences
  • Dr. Allan Tasman, University of Louisville Department of Psychiatry
  • F. Bruce Williams, Pastor, Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Smoketown
  • Kellie Watson, Director of Louisville Metro Human Resources, or her designee.

Sadiqa Reynolds is also leading the review of Metro Animal Services.

As mentioned on WFPL, Mayor Greg Fischer and the Fraternal Order of Police will begin negotiating this week on the long-standing take home car case.

For more than two years, previous Mayor Jerry Abramson and the FOP fought over whether the city can impose fees on officers who use their cars off-duty. The last court ruling in case was against the city, which had imposed the fees, though an appeal remains. Fischer and FOP president Dave Mutchler say they have high hopes for the out-of-court talks. The conversations between the administration and the FOP will keep going, though, since the police contract expires this summer.

In regards to fresh starts (as the Mayor calls them), here are two quotes from recent news. First, from Mutchler:

“It’s very evident to me that this is a completely different administration as it regards to the police and the FOP,” he says. “We’re looking forward to being able to sit down, like we have recently even, and negotiate these things.”

Next, from Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, on the review of Metro Animal Services:

“He [Fischer] just got here. So I think he’s moved…on the 5th day, that’s pretty quick,” says Downard. “We’ve had a situation that’s been going on for several years and nobody did a thing. I think he’s moved at a lickety-split pace.”

As Fischer announces more “fresh starts,” it will be interesting to see how many of the mayor’s critics or opponents make similar statements.

Mayor Greg Fischer has launched a review of Louisville Metro Animal Services and a search for a new director for the agency.

Here is the WFPL story. And here is the full audio of Fischer’s remarks. He began the discussion with the press with an overview of his first week in office (mp3).

LEO Weekly has covered this issue extensively. Here is the latest.

Here is a letter from an LMAS employee. The employees have been speaking to the media on the condition of anonymity, often because they fear retaliation from superiors. Councilman Kelly Downard says the investigation will give them a chance to talk openly. He said it’s like coming to the end of long, dark cave. Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh has also been outspoken on this issue. Like Downard, she is praising Fischer’s call for a review. Here are the councilmembers’ full statements:

“The problems at Metro Animal Services have gone on for too long. I thank Mayor Fischer for taking quick action to address this issue and begin a thorough review of the practices and policies at Metro Animal Services. I look forward to supporting Mayor Fischer, as we work to make Louisville MAS the best run organization in the country.” – Kelly Downard, Past Chair of the Metro Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee

“I commend the Mayor for this action. For to long there have been too many questions about operations, policies and practices of LMAS. The Metro Council has spent much time and effort to help LMAS with new ordinances and funding for facilities but concerns persist. Those of us in this community who love and care for animals want to make sure we and the people who take care of animals are doing the right thing. I am ready to assist in any way possible and I look forward to seeing the final results of the mayor’s action.” – Tina Ward Pugh, Chair of the Metro Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee

We’re pursuing more on this, but here’s a quick update…

Governor Steve Beshear‘s office sent out an announcement this morning saying he, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer are planning to “explore options that could reduce the cost of the Ohio River Bridges Project by more than $500 million and still keep the entire two-bridge construction plan on track.”

From the Governor’s office:

The major cost savings for the project, which currently has an estimated price tag of $4 billion, could come from changes in these key areas:

  • Rebuilding Spaghetti Junction in the existing location rather than move it south
  • Reducing the East End bridge, roadway and tunnel from six lanes to four lanes, with the option to add two lanes later if traffic demand warrants
  • Completing the Big Four Bridge pedestrian walkway and bike path as an alternative to including pedestrian and bike paths on the new downtown bridge

In addition, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority will explore other cost-saving solutions in design, construction and financing by soliciting private-sector ideas at an industry innovation forum next month.

New Mayor Greg Fischer is officially in office. He took the oath Monday. After his speech and a short prayer, fireworks were launched downtown (in the daytime) and the City Hall bells were rung. The fanfare was topped off with a short (two block) parade.

From WFPL:

Lousiville has not grown as fast as many peer cities, and Fischer acknowledged that in his speech. He said without an educated workforce, Louisville will not be able to compete with those other cities.

“The future of our city, the relevance of Louisville as a thriving 21st Century City is what’s at stake here. We will set our sights high,” he said.

Fischer then touted the economic benefits of a healthier population.

“We’re at the top of too many of the wrong lists when it comes to the health of our residents: rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer,” he said. “Poor health not only decreases the quality of life, but also drives up the cost of health care for employers.”

Click here to read more and listen to Fischer’s entire speech.

Also taking the oath were newly-elected and re-elected city and county officials, including Metro Council members. Members of Congress and the General Assembly were on the stage, as were the presidents of Spalding and U of L.

Former mayoral candidate Jackie Green was in the audience. Green ran as an independent, but dropped out of the race to support Fischer shortly before the election. I talked with Green afterward. He said “Our work is cut out for us,” but then lamented the fact that Fischer did not talk about sustainability in his inaugural address.

“Other cities are aggressively pursuing sustainability,” said Green, re-iterating his campaign talking point that Louisville must embrace environmentally-friendly policies in order to properly grown and succeed in the future.

 

Welcome to 2011. In case you haven’t heard, Greg Fischer will be sworn in as mayor today. Here is a story about what outgoing Mayor Jerry Abramson‘s departure may mean for the city.

I’ll be covering the swearing-in ceremony. You can follow along on Twitter.

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