Delaware animal control contract talks still at impasse

CAMDEN — Communication between the state of Delaware and First State Animal Center-SPCA continued last week with no resolution in sight on disputed contract obligations for statewide rabies and animal-cruelty enforcement.

A Division of Public Health proposal to terminate FSAC-SPCA’s contracts on Dec. 31 and request to respond by Wednesday were met with quick disapproval by the Camden-based nonprofit.

On Thursday, the state emailed FSAC-SPCA lawyer Steven Schwartz to see if a response was forthcoming to the Dec. 31 proposal.

“The State’s (Ms.[Sarah Fishman-] Goncher’s) response dictated a date by which we must reply with assurances that the contracts would be performed, thereby slamming the door in our faces by plainly indicating that the State has no interest in discussing any compromise,“ Mr. Schwartz wrote in an email to Deputy Attorney General Joanna Suder.

“The state should have welcomed an opportunity to open discussions that might lead to compromise, in order to avert the impossible situation the State has created by its public declaration that it will take over all animal control at some indefinite time in the near future …”

A Division of Public Health spokesperson said Friday the FSAC-SPCA’s latest communication had been received “and (we) are seeking clarification.”

Later in his response, Mr. Schwartz continued with, “This is a crisis of the State’s own making. It is simply not possible for FSAC—SPCA to perform the animal-control and rabies contracts without animal-control employees.”

A timeline unfolds

In mid-July, FSAC-SPCA announced its intention to terminate contracts with the state on Aug. 15, citing recent legislation shifting oversight to the state; without the termination, the nonprofit claimed it would be stretched to the point of non-performance and liability issues due to upcoming employee departures.

On Aug. 3, the FSAC-SPCA sent a seven-point contract proposal to the state offering to delay contract cessations until June 30, 2016, with some contract modifications.

On Aug. 4, in a letter to FSAC-SPCA’s Mr. Schwartz, the state responded that it did not “agree or accept the proposed terms” and then countered with the Dec. 31 proposal sent by Deputy Attorney General Sarah Fishman-Goncher.

In a letter to FSAC-SPCA, the state maintains that contracts for FSAC-SPCA to continue rabies and animal-cruelty enforcement remain valid until June 30, 2016.

It claimed “the FSAC-SPCA has not properly invoked the termination provision (for the Rabies Contract), and lacks a basis to do so.”

The state described FSAC-SPCA’s proposed Sept. 15 stop date as “artificial, and based solely upon FSAC-SPCA’s expressed intention to quit performance pursuant to the Rabies Contract on that date.”

Also, the state said, “(The Division of Public Health values its relationship with FSAC-SPCA and the important public services it provides. DPH wishes to work with FSAC-SPCA to reach a mutually agreeable resolution regarding the provision of rabies control services.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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