LAWRENCEVILLE -- The members of the public who spoke following Tuesday night's meeting of Gwinnett's animal task force took the opportunity to lobby for their vision of the county animal shelter's next leader.
Lt. Mary Lou Respess, the shelter's manager since 2007, was temporarily reassigned early this year during an internal affairs investigation by the police department. Details about the nature of the investigation, which is still open, have been scarce, but a police spokesman has said the matter is "strictly a personnel issue" and not related to care of the animals.
Maj. Dan Bruno has taken over for the time being, but several residents who spoke following Tuesday's meeting believed it was time for a departure from the department altogether.
"We need a rescue coordinator, we need a full-time vet, we need a vet tech that helps them," resident Randy DeCarlo said. "You're not going to get that if you allow the police department to just hand that job off to the next person in line, who wants it and isn't qualified."
Said Carla Brown, a Gwinnett County judge and animal activist: "It's not a police job. It's not a lieutenant or a colonel or whatever ... They've got to want to do the job."
The 17-member animal task force is a temporary group charged with reviewing the practices and policies within the department of animal welfare and enforcement before making recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.
While Chairman Joel Taylor said determining if the police department should run the shelter or not was "way out of the scope of what we're working on," he did say the task force was gathering information about "what the (right) qualifications are."
Task force member Jon Richards was more direct Tuesday.
"I think you'll probably find when the final recommendations come out, that there will be a recommendation that, now that we have this opportunity to hire a shelter director, for better or worse, that the county should go ahead and leverage that opportunity and find a professional that may not have come up through the police ranks," Richards said.
Norcross resident Joyce Krechting said the county should consider privatizing the shelter.
"They're a great police department," she said, "and should be doing what police do. Not running an animal shelter."
The animal task force's four subcommittees -- partnership, policy, program and structure -- will present their recommendations in front of the entire committee at a meeting on April 24, Taylor said, before the formal suggestions are presented to the Board of Commissioners.