An attorney representing outgoing Salina Animal Services Manager Vanessa Cowie release a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Cowie who was suspended from her job back in July, resigned on Tuesday.
The following is the statement from Charles Ault-Duell :
On September 19, 2018, Vanessa Cowie – a much-beloved and respected Salina City employee who has for many years served the Salina, Kansas community with distinction and continuing, unmitigated public confidence as the Salina Animal Shelter Director – voluntarily resigned her position.
In exchange for her voluntary resignation, the Salina City Commission approved a request by Interim City Manager Mike Schrage to pay Vanessa the same severance compensation any other City employee in good standing would receive, who, like Vanessa, chose to pursue a position offering an increase in pay, respect, and professional standing.
This employment transition for Vanessa comes on the heels and as a direct consequence of the political fallout of Vanessa’s oversight of a widely-publicized felony animal-cruelty case now pending in the Saline County District Court. Because of the privileged and confidential nature of the personnel proceedings involved in this matter, this is Vanessa’s first opportunity to respond to the rumors and allegations circulating about her recent employment status.
The District Judge handling the pending animal cruelty case – the Honorable Rene S. Young – recently found as a matter of Kansas law that Vanessa acted within the scope of and pursuant to the authority granted to her under Kansas state statute as the Salina Animal Shelter Director when Vanessa assisted the Saline County Sheriff’s Department in prosecuting the animal cruelty case. Chapter 7 of the Salina City Code confirms the same unilateral enforcement authority allowed to a Shelter Director – like Vanessa – provided by Kansas state statutes.
In precise terms, Vanessa acted in concert with the Saline County Sheriff’s Department and pursuant to both City and State law in all respects. This conclusion is not Vanessa’s opinion, or the opinion of her legal counsel. It is the determination of a sitting District Court Judge following a contested, public hearing in a pending criminal matter.
Vanessa also perfected the City’s right to seek forfeiture of the animals at issue from the alleged abusive owners, and restitution for all City expenses incurred for the housing and care of the animals seized in that case – although City officials and legal representatives chose for unknown reasons to forego those legal rights. Through her own effort and on her own professional merits and credibility, she further acquired grants and obtained sizable private donations to entirely subsidize the City’s costs of caring for the animals seized by the Sheriff’s Department during the pendency of the criminal proceedings. The Salina City Commission retroactively approved the expenditures necessitated by the unforeseen – and reasonably unforeseeable – costs so-incurred.
To be clear, Vanessa secured both the City’s criminal-restitution and criminal-forfeiture rights, and the “up-front” funding to pay for what has proven to be, unequivocally, “the right thing to do” for the animals. The decision by City officials and legal representatives to abandon the rights Vanessa preserved for the City in connection with the case was well-beyond Vanessa’s control or influence.
Following officials’ “sticker shock” over the cost of enforcing the City and State animal cruelty laws, her department head and supervisor initiated adverse disciplinary action against Vanessa. These proceedings started before current Interim-City-Manager Mike Schrage began working in that role.
From Vanessa’s point of view, this action by her department head and supervisor stems from a broken leadership culture in that department, and a lack of understanding by her chain of command about the scope of her job and statutory duties, as well as the financial realities of law enforcement. The issues that ultimately led to Vanessa’s decision to resign have been openly and frankly discussed with the Interim City Manager, the City HR Department, and the City’s legal counsel.
Vanessa continues to respect Mr. Schrage and his ability to lead the City organization in the best interest of the Salina community. She believes that Mr. Schrage will ultimately do what is best for the City.
To her staff and volunteers in the Animal Shelter, and to her many supporters in the Salina community and beyond, Vanessa wishes to express her deepest, heartfelt gratitude. The public expressions of political and financial support Vanessa has received over the past few weeks have been very moving to her. She hopes that same level of support for the Shelter and its programs continues in her absence.
She wants her friends and supporters in Salina – a community in which she has invested the last few years of her life and loves very dearly – to understand that her decision to leave a toxic work environment is not any reflection on the citizens she was proud to work with and serve, or her staff and volunteers. Vanessa decided to change jobs because she felt that her effectiveness in her current role was at its end. Period.
She is extremely proud of the Animal Shelter community that has grown up around her work and leadership over the past four years. She has enjoyed the opportunity to serve her community in that role and in the field she is passionate about. Her new position will keep her in the animal welfare field, and she hopes to have the chance to work with the many volunteers and community partners who have been so crucial to the Shelter’s success in the future.