Did political arm twisting stop investigation into Olympic Animal Sanctuary?
An email posted on Facebook today may offer some insight as to why the Forks Police decided not to pursue charges of animal cruelty against the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) earlier this year
To recap, in October of 2012, Forks Police visited OAS and wrote up a citation for animal neglect against OAS and its founder Steve Markwell, but never delivered it.
When speaking with Dogs Deserve Better Founder Tamira Thayne earlier this week Forks Police Chief Rick Bart said that police "planned to arrest Steve Markwell on animal cruelty charges" until he got a lawyer. Markwell and his attorney then made a deal with Bart and his attorney that "he would decrease the number of dogs at his facility to 60."
Markwell never followed through on his promise.
And now he has 125 dogs stuffed into his warehouse.
You'd think that the police would file the animal neglect charges against Markwell since he didn't hold up his end of the deal.
But they've done nothing.
Well, the email may provide a clue.
It was sent to Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon last January, about 4 months after the police went to OAS. It's from Matthew Randazzo, an author and former chairman of the Clallam County Democratic Party from January 2011until last January.
Last April, he was named Special Assistant to Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.
And, at least at the time of this email, he was the Vice-President of the board of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary.
Look at the first line - Randazzo says he wants the Mayor know about his "concern regarding the Fork Police Department's conduct in regards to OAS." He goes on to say that he's contacting the Mayor "privately, at first, without involving others."
Randazzo then says he has a "high opinion of (the Mayor's) leadership skills and have spoken highly of the same to others."
Now here's the kicker - Randazzo ends the paragraph by saying, "I hope that this issue does not eventually become a reason to rethink that opinion and future ideas I had on areas we could work together to advance our mutual political goals in the Olympic Peninsula."
To paraphrase, it sounds like he's saying: you're not handling this OAS investigation the way I want. Now I've told lots of people what a talented guy you are, but if you don't back off the OAS investigation, I'm not going to help you out politically in the future.
Sounds like Randazzo was playing hardball with the Mayor.
He goes on to say that Markwell "has already reduced" the number of dogs he has and is working to buy a new location that will improve the animals' quality of life."
We know now Markwell has done neither. He still has more dogs than he can handle, and he even took in a litter of puppies last summer he had to bottle feed (I thought he ran a haven for abused dogs, not puppies).
Markwell also spent $50,000 that a donor gave him to help build the facility on dog food. At a town meeting in Forks last month, the donor, Sherie Maddox, said, "I’m afraid all I did by giving Steve $50,000 was help to fund what seems to be a hoarding operation."
She said she gave the money to Markwell in June of 2012, but in February of 2013 he told her he used the money to buy dog food.
As Vice President of the OAS board, shouldn't Randazzo have known at the time he wrote his email to the Mayor that $50,000, a major contribution to OAS, had been spent on dog food instead of moving the sanctuary?
Randazzo goes on to say that OAS is exempt RCW 16.52.310, the state law that limits the number of dogs someone can have. I assume that by telling the Mayor to refer to the "exemptions section," he meant OAS was exempt from the law because it doesn't apply to "A private, charitable not-for-profit humane society or animal adoption organization" (Section 4 (b)).
I'll probably have to consult a lawyer on this, but I think it's disingenuous to classify OAS as a "humane society," and it certainly isn't an "animal adoption organization".
Randazzo goes on to call the people who filed the complain "extremists" and the police officer who investigated has "a troubling history on animal issues."
I have no idea if this is true or not, but the complaint was filed because OAS had too many dogs. Randazzo basically admitted he agreed when he said OAS would reduce the number of dogs it had.
So if OAS did in fact have too many dogs, and Randazzo said OAS would reduce the number of dogs it had, and the complaint was made about the fact that OAS had too many dogs, then does it really matter who made the complaint?
Randazzo closes his email with more threatening language. He said he would "very aggressively rebut and seek to discredit and defeat any action" that damages Markwell and OAS.
He ends by saying, "I do not wish this issue to become an impediment to our friendship and working relationship."
Interestingly, nowhere in the email does Randazzo say he was Vice President of the OAS board. An April 2013 article in the Peninsula Daily News said he was still VP, so I assume he was the previous January.
People will have differing opinions on whether or not Randazzo threatened to hurt the Mayor's political career if the OAS investigation wasn't called off. But I think, at the very least, his email offers a potential explanation as to why nothing has been done to further investigate what's going on behind the walls at OAS.
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