published Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Chattanooga City Council votes to extend McKamey Animal Center contract

McKamey Animal Center.
McKamey Animal Center.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga City Council voted 8-0 to extend the current 5-year-old contract with McKamey Animal Center for animal control services through June.

While the city and McKamey's governing body, the Animal Care Trust, have recently had a tumultuous relationship, the administration asked for the extension of the 2008 contract through the end of the current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the city attorney's office is still working to update the contract, which in many places is no longer relevant and has been outdated for at least three years.

City Attorney Wade Hinton said the administration is waiting for the animal center to hire a full-time executive director since Karen Walsh resigned in October.

Walsh resigned to take a job with PetSmart Charities after Mayor Andy Berke's staff requested the Internal Audit Office scrutinize how the board operates. The request came after board member Carol Goodman complained that Walsh had received her annual $10,000 bonus without full board approval.

Berke then said he would not extend a new contract with McKamey until City Auditor Stan Sewell's review was complete.

The animal center gets $1.5 million from the city annually. Board Chairwoman Ann Ball has blamed the media and city for falling donations because the city audit continues to drag on.

Since September, two more board members quit and the board has tried unsuccessfully three times to kick Goodman off.

The city auditor's review still isn't complete. But Sewell said what he has learned so far could have put the administration at ease to extend the deadline.

Berke's Chief Operating Officer Jeff Cannon said the contract had to be extended because it was set to expire Dec. 31. He said the administration is still waiting for Sewell's review.

Councilman Larry Grohn questioned the holdup with the city to update McKamey's contract. Grohn recently pointed out that a 2011 city audit showed the city was at fault for letting McKamey's contract lapse.

"That 2008 document doesn't mesh with the current code," Grohn said. "Why wasn't it updated?"

He was told the administration is still working on a new contract.

The council also debated changes to the city's process of approving expenses.

Council members were split on raising the threshold to approve city expenses from $10,000 to $25,000. There was also confusion over two similar ordinances.

The administration's original request last week was to raise the sealed bid threshold from $10,000 to $25,000, which Berke's Deputy Chief Operating Officer Brent Goldberg said would promote more competition with businesses.

This week ,at Councilman Moses Freeman's request, the council was asked to vote on both: raising the limit that needs approval by council and the threshold for sealed bids.

The measure to raise the bar for both requests passed on first reading by a 6-2 vote.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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