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A reflective Cooper returns to animal control job

Amy Cooper, director of county Animal Care and Control, works on her computer Tuesday on her first day back at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter. BETH SCHLANKER/PD


Barking and balloons greeted Amy Cooper upon her return Tuesday to Sonoma County’s animal shelter, nine months after Cooper was fired and told to leave the facility immediately.

Cooper, 49, recalled that “brutal” Monday morning on July 12 when former Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Neville came into Cooper’s office and told the Animal Care and Control director that she was being let go.

Stunned, Cooper handed over her keys, badge and county cell phone, and then waited in her car for security to open the chain-link gate to let her out of the Century Court compound and into an uncertain future.

On Tuesday, a large “Congratulations” banner was affixed to that same gate, welcoming Cooper when she arrived for her first day back on the job.

In a bizarre set of circumstances, the county rehired Cooper on Friday, nine months after she was fired and less than a month after the Board of Supervisors fired Neville.

Cooper said she still has not been told why she was fired in the first place.

“I don’t suspect I’ll ever know, and I’m at peace with that,” she said. “I’m real forward-thinking right now.”

Cooper, whose right arm was in a sling Tuesday as a result of a broken bone suffered in a March 1 skiing mishap, described her time away in terms one might use to describe a spiritual journey.

“I learned a lot about humility and patience and looking at other paths. I learned that I don’t control as much as I think I do,” she said.

Much has changed in her absence. Animal Care and Control, once part of the ag commissioner’s office, is now part of the county Health Department. County supervisors in September approved the change after an investigation ordered by County Administrator Veronica Ferguson revealed widespread dissatisfaction among employees over the way things were being run.

Perhaps the biggest change for Cooper is that she now reports to Rita Scardaci, director of county health, and not Neville, who is suing the county to get her job back.

Cooper said Scardaci stopped by the shelter on Tuesday to welcome her back.

Cooper said she recognizes that the excitement over her return will be short-lived and that she will immediately have to come up to speed on all that she has missed. That includes addressing budget shortfalls and the prospect of having to cut staff.

“I want to do all I can to advocate for this division, so that we have enough personnel to handle the demands the public places on us,” she said.

Underscoring the point, visitors waited in a line of cars outside the gate on Tuesday for the shelter to open at noon.

Inside the building, a photo of Cooper identifying her as the shelter’s director adorned the main hallway.

It was never taken down.

7 Responses to “A reflective Cooper returns to animal control job”

  1. Dogfather says:

    Business as usual. As far as layoffs go, maybe Bob Garcia can do the whole county a favor and just retire, leaving room for at least one person to keep their job.

  2. TheObserver says:

    @ mockingbird:

    I’ll tell you what I have an attachment too – fairness and justice. I’m very attached to those concepts.

    This article here for example, sounds almost dictated to the P-D by you. It’s a mythological piece about the triumphant return of a princess to her throne, a children’s fairy tale. No fairness here, that’s for sure. If Ms. Neville returns, I’m doubting the P-D will cover it in the same way.

    Your attachment to Ms. Cooper (and that of others here) borders on fanaticism as if you were all in some kind of cult.

    Your cold answer about the animals (they just need to be neutered)also bothers me because it does not directly address the killing of healthy animals.

    So, I say, yes, fund the budget to neuter all animals from five or six union salaries, that would be just.

  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    To the observor. You apparently don’t know how layoffs work. It won’t be just Amy Coopers decision. It will be done by civil service rules. There will be bumping all along the line. Now that Animal Control is in DHS the employees will have to compete with others in their class in other departments. The employees who work for the county are all quite aware of which managers are on their side. Amy will do her best to keep as many employees that she can and will fight for those underneath her. I can’t say that about all the county managers. AS FOR THE MANAGERS WHO APPEAR TO ALL BE STILL AT THEIR JOBS AFTER THE LAST LAYOFFS, I WOULD LIKE THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO MAKE SURE THE SAME PERCENTAGE OF MANAGERS GET LAYED OFF AS FRONTLINE EMPLOYEES. WE HAVE JUST TOO MANY BIG, BIG SALARIES AT THE TOP AND NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE ON THE FRONTLINES. This is not just an issue of loss of frontline employees for everyday county activities but the frontline employees are required to work disasters. From my perspective our ability to respond to flooding or an earthquake has been seriously hampered.

    As for Neville, you must have some attachment with her. You sure are mighty defensive. Let’s just see how it all comes out in the wash.

    For those of you who are worried about all the animals that are destroyed because of over population, if people did more adoptions that would help. Maybe a donation adoption fund could be set up for people who can’t afford to adopt but really want to.

    The real issue is that animals need to be neutered. There has to be a free resource access for people to bring their animals in. The county claims to be broke so animal control won’t have the budget they need to make this happen effectively.

  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Welcome back Amy and into the Dept of Health Services fold.

    We expect the same good work now that you were doing in the position before. Cathy Neville did not recognize your skills (or was jealous at how well you were liked and respected). She is getting exactly what she’s been asking for, for years. It’s not what she did to you that she’s in the mess she’s in. Her actions against you just called attention to her own incompetency.

  5. TheObserver says:

    I agree with both posters here. Plus, this article is pure fluff…it’s amazing how this is positioned as “Big News.”

    Next big headline reads: “Baker and candlestick maker settle dispute over yeast and wax odors.”

    County administration and the supes can use stuff like this to deflect interest in the real issues.

    Dogs Rule is right…animals will continue to face horrors in Sonoma. They do in all shelters which are basically concentration camps for animals.

  6. Dogs Rule says:

    OK now that Amy Cooper won her feud with Neville and it’s been in the PD 11 times – can the citizens who pay for these people expect SCACC to stop killing 1,778 healthy, adoptable animals a year? I really doubt it.

  7. Mike says:

    Does anything that happens in matters dealing with the Board of Supervisors surprise anyone anymore?

    The score during the past several seasons have put them in the bottom of their league.

    Crisis Management–0 for too many to count.

    General Management Skills–0 forever.

    Ability to Control Budget Spending–So bad it is rated off the radar.

    Ability to Make Decisions that make sense–Cannot be measured, it is a remote concept for our group.

    Ability to Deal with Pension reform–0 for 400 attempts.

    Ability to Maintain basic services–Could not be rated as the group can not define basic services.

    Overall score for achievement during the past 3 years–Group could not be rated as the score is too low to measure.

    Why would the PD or anyone else think the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors would or could address any issues raised by the terminations of the dog catcher or her former boss?