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Commissioners deny fired animal control officers appeal
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A former Effingham County Animal Control employee had the appeal of his termination denied Tuesday.

County commissioners voted 6-0 to uphold the November firing of Mike Waldron. Waldron was fired Nov. 7 for what county officials said was a pattern of behavior in violating the county’s policy on conduct and language.

One of the incidents also ultimately led to the resignation of animal control supervisor April Baumann in November.

County staff outlined four instances where Waldron’s conduct and language was called into question, including an August 2007 incident where Waldron was charged with reckless conduct and discharging a firearm while under the influence of alcohol.

State Court Solicitor Mark Lee told commissioners that all the charges against Waldron for that incident were nolle prossed, meaning they were not prosecuted. Waldron said he was trying to stop an altercation from getting out of hand.

“I warned them I was an off-duty animal control officer,” he said, adding he called the sheriff’s department and said he had discharged shots, firing into a nearby tree line. “I never denied calling the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and I never denied firing a few shots. I don’t see how being a county employee takes away my right to defend myself.”

County Administrator David Crawley asserted that the incident served to discredit the county.

“There was drinking and there was gunfire, and the incident was reported in the police blotter,” he said.

In an October 2007 complaint, Waldron said he went to investigate a home on Goshen Road and found cat feces “all over the floor” and that the cats were drinking out of a bowl placed under an air conditioning unit.

“You could not put your hand or foot in the trailer without putting it in cat feces,” he said. “There was no food, so the cats were forced to eat each other.”

Waldron wrote three citations and said the homeowner could have been charged with animal cruelty. But the homeowner was under the impression that only one citation was being issued.

Last April, Waldron, while off duty, was approached by a neighbor about an unruly dog that had chased her to her vehicle. Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Swint also responded and said the dog was aggressive. Waldron accompanied animal control officer Wayne Guhl in the animal control truck in an effort to contain the dog.

Swint said he advised the dog’s owner it should be turned over to animal control.

“He’s vicious, and he needed to go,” he said.

The dog’s owner complained that Waldron was “laughing hysterically,” but Guhl said that wasn’t the case.

“At no time in this whole incident did I see him laughing,” Guhl told the commissioners.

Guhl also said the dog’s pen was in poor shape and it would have gotten loose again.

“Ms. Baumann said if a deputy or police officer asks to remove a dog, we had no choice. There are no questions asked,” he said. “Once the deputy said he wanted the dog removed, my hands are tied.”

In October, animal control got a call about two Labrador retrievers, one black and one gold, that had been found.

According to the county’s investigation, Waldron told the woman who found the dogs he knew who the owner was and he would take them back to the owner. Both dogs were taken to animal control, but the log-in sheet only recorded the yellow lab as being entered.

Waldron said he told the woman it was obvious the dogs had been well cared for.

Crawley said the woman who found the dogs was adamant that Waldron said he knew who the owners were. One of the dogs was eventually euthanized.

“I never told I knew who the owners were,” Waldron said.

The woman who found the dogs told officials that if she knew Waldron was going to take the dogs to animal control, she wouldn’t have released them to him.

“I found the comment, ‘Where do you think they’re going to go, to Walmart?’ to be unprofessional,” Crawley said.

“I had listened to about 15 minutes of being called a … liar,” Waldron remarked. “That’s when I said, ‘Where do you think they were being taken to, to Walmart?’”

The euthanization of one of the dogs, and the documentation for it, led to Baumann resigning her post.