Subscribe for $3 for three months

CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Council heard from several animal control workers Tuesday expressing concern they could lose their jobs because of problems at the county’s pet adoption center.

An audit released last month found myriad problems at the facility in Olivette, including a contention that the center hid its euthanasia rates from advisory board members through paperwork tricks and was spending little effort marketing pets for adoption. And the audit found the shelter was unable to control infectious disease because of overcapacity.

Officials in County Executive Sam Page’s administration have said they are working on implementing a series of changes to improve conditions at the center.

But employees said Tuesday they were in the dark about any reforms underway and said the problems were caused by mismanagement under the administration of former County Executive Steve Stenger. Some said they were concerned they could be fired if the county decides to hand the center to a private operator.

Animal care and control officer Klye Frysztak said his colleagues had been trying for years to make officials in the county’s Department of Public Health aware of problems at the shelter.

And animal caregiver Clinton Wall told the council, “Since 2015, the staff of Animal Care and Control have voiced concerns … over who is actually in charge. Is it the volunteers? Is it the advisory board? Is it the citizens of St. Louis County and the taxpayers who pay for these services?”

Page said he would have a representative from the health department report next week on the progress of reforms taking place at the center.

The council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas, told the employees: “Your voices were heard tonight. This is not the prior administration. We will not ignore your concerns.”

Bi-State refinance advances

After two weeks of delays, the council advanced legislation that would allow the county to sign off on a major bond issue refinancing for Bi-State Development to provide some $20 million for new public safety measures on MetroLink. The council voted 4-1 to advance the measure to a final vote next week.

Trakas had held up the refinancing but said Tuesday his questions had been answered.

Trakas said the council would be doing a “deep dive” on Metro’s budget request from the county for its 2020 budget. The county contributes the largest share to Bi-State from any government, about $150 million. Last year, after concerns about safety on MetroLink, the council voted to withhold some of Bi-State’s funding to pressure the agency into providing regular updates.

Council turnover

The council has a Democratic majority for the first time in more than three months, after two Democrats won special elections Aug. 6 to fill vacancies on the council from the resignations of Page and vice chair Hazel Erby after Stenger’s resignation on April 29.

Kelli Dunaway, D-2nd District, was sworn in Tuesday, and Democrat Rita Heard Days, D-1st District, is scheduled to be sworn in next week, giving the Democrats a 4-3 majority.

The county does not require council members to be sworn in on a Bible, and Dunaway chose the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“I’m proud and excited to get to work for the 2nd District, and to help rebuild trust in our county government,” Dunaway told a reporter after her first meeting.

The council has not yet broached the issue of whether the new majority would try to regain leadership of the council by electing a chairman and vice chair. Trakas, a Republican, has temporarily filled the chairman’s duties as presiding officer and has said he would like to continue in the position.

Hillary Levin of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.

Political Fix e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Jeremy Kohler is an investigative reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.