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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth’s animal control staff is overwhelmed with animals, according to a task force report unveiled Tuesday. The report however, did not address personnel issues at the department, including a state investigation into a contract veterinarian fired last year.
The task force recommended spending more than $1.1 million on as many as 15 new employees and three new vehicles. It also recommended a significant upgrade to organization and communication.
The report was largely complimentary of the job the department had done with its resources. Members of the task force repeatedly pointed out in a presentation to council members though, that they were not tasked with looking into personnel problems.
City council members asked for the task force in November, after some said they were bombarded with citizen complaints. However, the report did not include what the I-Team uncovered during the last four months – complaints of ethnic slurs, substance abuse and a state investigation into a veterinarian.
A Facebook post last November from a man working as a contract veterinarian for the city was blunt.
“Don’t forget to kill a Muslim,” it said.
Then there was another, “Just heard “Imagine” by John Lennon. Until all the Muslims are dead his dream will never come true.”
Fort Worth assistant city manager Fernando Costa said when he saw the post, he was shocked. He told CBS11 the posts prompted him to immediately cancel the city contract with veterinarian Joel Akin.
“He’d had a troubled life,” Costa said. “But not withstanding those problems, he appeared to be fully certified as a veterinarian.”
The I-Team found those problems included a criminal record for driving under the influence, public intoxication and police reports alleging akin was shouting racial slurs in public.
In an animal control advisory board meeting in November, administrators indicated they were aware of some of it.
“The question is, is there anything in his criminal background that would prohibit him from being a veterinarian or from holding a job with the city in his current position, as a contract veterinarian,” code compliance director Brandon Bennet asked during the meeting. “And there wasn’t anything that precluded that from occurring.”
Amy Taylor and the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners would disagree.
“I can’t fathom why the city of Fort Worth would have to hire a vet with that kind of record,” Taylor said.
Taylor started asking questions last October, after a dog she tried to rescue from the shelter, didn’t survive a routine spay surgery.
Akin was the surgeon.
“I asked at the shelter, ‘I need to speak to the veterinarian on staff that did the surgery,’ ” she said. “I want to speak to him. I need to know what happened. And he refused to see me.”
Taylor turned to social media with her frustration and said it went crazy. About the same time, concerns were also raised from inside the department.
“That smell… that old stale, sweaty, been out all night, smell,” was the description from a former veterinary technician for the city, Tammy Chamness gave about Akin.
She admitted butting heads with Akin more than once. After she reported the smell of alcohol, she was suspended.
“My feeling was if we found anything wrong with Dr. Akin we weren’t supposed to say anything because it was going to be pushed under the rug,” she said.
The city later fired her, saying in a letter that her allegations against Akin were “irresponsible and unfounded.”
The city provided the I-team with test results showing Akin was not drunk that day. But Taylor and Chamness pressed ahead, turning to the state for action. That action was swift.
Citing Chamness report, and Facebook posts described as suicidal, the veterinary board suspended Akins’ license. It was the next day, Fort Worth canceled his contract.
In January the state determined Akin “could not safely practice due to a substance abuse disorder, and previously diagnosed mental disorder.”
Costa told the I-team it would be humanly impossible to investigate every contract or every contractor with whom the city performs work. He relied on other city supervisors, he said, to deal with issues at the animal clinic until he became aware of Akin’s postings on social media.
“Through my own investigation, it became clear there was substantial reason to terminate that person’s employment,” he said. “Should we have hired Dr. Akin as a contractor? In retrospect, no.”
When asked if he has gone back to staff members to find out why they didn’t tell him more about Akin’s past history, Costa said the city manager’s office doesn’t make hiring decision.
While not willing to speak on camera, Akin told us none of what happened, affected any of his work as a veterinarian.
His hiring came as Fort Worth used contract veterinarians to increase spay and neuter surgeries by the thousands.
Taylor said her concern is, in the end animals aren’t taken care of.
“It needs a complete overhaul,” she said. “That’s a taxpayer funded shelter. Everybody in the city of Fort Worth pays for that shelter.”
Akin’s license is still suspended, pending a long list of recovery terms recommended by the state.
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