published Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Bradley County SPCA animal shelter director resigns

  • photo
    Jonathan "Jack" Cooper has resigned as shelter director for SPCA of Bradley County.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Jack Cooper, the animal shelter director for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County, resigned on Saturday, six days after the facility opened its doors.

"I had a difference in philosophy regarding shelter management and general operations," Cooper said.

Neither Cooper nor Beth Foster, media coordinator for the organization, would elaborate on what differences the former director might have had with the SPCA of Bradley County.

Cooper's resignation letter gave no more details, but it stated that he left "without animosity," Foster said.

The resignation did not surprise at least some members of the SPCA.

"We had known since early February that Jack was unlikely to stay in the shelter director's position," Betti Gravelle, SPCA board president, said in a prepared statement. "We appreciate Jack staying with us until we got the shelter opened and operating."

The tentative nature of Cooper's status had not come before the SPCA board, but it had been rumored, said Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones, who serves on the board along with Commissioner Mark Hall.

Cooper, former director of East Ridge Animal Services, has been associated with the SPCA since last summer. He served as an SPCA board member until October, but remained in a consulting capacity until he was hired as the shelter's director in January with an annual salary of $30,000.

Cooper resigned last year from his job in East Ridge after he and his wife, Dr. Sara Cooper, were arrested Oct. 6 on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Those charges later were dropped and the records expunged.

On Sunday, the SPCA announced that Gravelle had appointed board member Jack Burke as interim shelter director and Shelley Moreland as the shelter's second humane officer. Both are longtime volunteers with animal welfare group Cleveland for a No Kill City.

On Monday, Peak-Jones said she was not in favor of Gravelle's selection of Burke and expressed hope that the board would hire a new director within two weeks.

"I would like SPCA to be more transparent," Peak-Jones said. "Jack Burke is the treasurer of SPCA, so he would not have been a good candidate in my opinion."

Burke served eight years as a deputy sheriff and will take a leave of absence from the SPCA board while serving as interim director, according to the Sunday announcement.

The pair will join humane officer Kevin Jones and a dozen volunteers at the shelter, Gravelle said.

The shelter, located on Johnson Boulevard, opened its doors on March 17 as part of the SPCA's $80,000 agreement to provide animal sheltering services to Bradley County.

The organization renovated a garage and trailer to serve as the new shelter, with Bradley County agreeing to reimburse up to $40,000 for the work.

Bradley County's agreement with the SPCA marks the end of a longstanding contract with the Cleveland Animal Shelter to provide animal control services to residents who live outside the city limits.

That relationship came to a standstill last summer when the Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council could not reach agreement on the county's portion of the shelter's proposed $600,000 budget for 2013-14.

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

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