published Thursday, August 28th, 2014

New SPCA member calls for 'backbone' in Bradley County

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County Commissioner-elect Dan Rawls says he wants to set the record straight regarding the new direction of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County.

Rawls, along with businessman Perk Evans and plant manager and county school board member Chris Turner, were appointed to the SPCA board of directors Aug. 18.

"We came to provide some backbone for this board," said Rawls in a recent interview, adding that divisions within the board had resulted in a failure to maintain effective and consistent operation of the SPCA's no-kill animal shelter.

A key concern, said Rawls, is full compliance with the organization's $80,000 annual contract with Bradley County. That contract requires the organization to offer animal sheltering services for all Bradley County residents and to provide emergency animal pickup.

"Failing to meet our obligation to take care of emergency pickup calls puts the board and the county at risk," said Rawls. "It absolutely must happen."

The new board's first official action was to approve SPCA President Betti Gravelle's firing of shelter director Bobbi Anderson in light of allegations the SPCA failed to comply with emergency pickup requirements.

Gravelle cited an email from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office detailing a mid-August incident in which the SPCA failed to respond to a call to pick up an aggressive dog. Gravelle called the email evidence of "insubordination" and violation of the SCPA mission.

Anderson was not allowed to speak in her defense during the meeting in which she was fired.

It wasn't the only time the SPCA failed to comply, said Rawls. He said he heard from Chief Deputy W.G. "Buck" Campbell of at least four to five instances where the SPCA did not respond to deputy calls.

Campbell said he didn't remember "giving a figure in my conversation with Mr. Rawls." He added, "However, I also told Mr. Rawls that most of the interactions between SPCA and the sheriff's office had been positive."

He said he sent the email at Gravelle's request and he did not know it was to be used to fire anyone.

Board members Charlotte Peak-Jones, a Bradley County commissioner, and Jack Burke, board treasurer, resigned after Anderson was fired.

During his last meeting, Burke said the board "has been hijacked."

Rawls said Peak-Jones had become too involved in the fighting and needed to step away.

Since resigning, Peak-Jones has called on Gravelle to step down. She said Gravelle has a conflict of interest since she also is executive director of Dixie Day Spay, which has provided services to the SPCA shelter.

Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall, another SPCA board member, has criticized the manner of Anderson's termination and has said the county should end its agreement with the organization.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Contact him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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