Mayor Stahura Follow-up Statement • Animal Shelter Employee Case

Date: 8/27/2017
Re: Whiting Animal Shelter

This past Friday, the Department of Justice issued a press release related to one of the city’s employees who plead guilty to a misdemeanor related to his role in aiding a person who engaged in dog-fighting. When the press release was issued, I was out of the office on business. In route home, I received dozens of calls from the media and others demanding my position on the future employment of the employee. Without the benefit of having the details of the plea agreement or the case, I repeatedly made the statement that I didn’t think the charges warranted his termination. Up until that point, I was only broadly aware of the circumstances based on prior discussions held with the employee, but I was waiting for the court’s action before officially reacting. When I arrived at the office, I then discovered that one of our local newspapers had posted an extremely misleading headline to its online story that created a firestorm of responses that were irrational, misguided and grossly misinformed. This firestorm, resulted in my issuance of a statement in attempt to provide clarity to the situation, but the reaction was already out of control. In the social media posts, emails and phone messages that I received or read, 9 out of 10 people were led to believe that dog-fights were staged at the shelter or the employee was personally engaged in staging dog-fights. Sadly, many others have fabricated even more erroneous stories that were a gross exaggeration of the facts. None of the above referenced accusations ever occurred.

It is extremely important to understand that I do not and have never condoned these actions and do not and will never take these issues lightly. Those that know me are aware that I personally modified our practices to ensure that our shelter operated as a no-kill facility and along with my staff worked extremely hard to fund and to build a new sorely needed animal shelter for our city.

Nothing I can say about the employee will ever erase the things he did. He made a series of terrible mistakes that he will regret for the rest of his life. In situations like this, the easy action would have been for me to immediately terminate him. Simply wash my hands of a controversial situation. In a situation that triggers this much emotion and passion, it is very easy to make a decision that will be regretted. So I chose to pause until I had the chance to speak to people about the case, review the available information and to be sure I made the right decision. This was clearly articulated in my first statement.

Knowing what I now know today and following a lengthy discussion with the employee, we both agree that Mr. Jakubowski’s immediate resignation from all duties and responsibilities with the City of Whiting is in the best interest of both the City and the Animal Shelter.

In an effort to protect the operation of the Animal Shelter and in attempt to prevent any incident of this nature from happening again, I will request a full operational review of the Shelter by a third party organization. All forms, policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure industry-wide standards are being met.

I need to conclude with these comments. In today’s world of discontent and lack of civility I am amazed at the anger displayed by people who had little or no detailed knowledge of this issue. I’m not talking about compassionate and rational disagreement I’m talking about vicious banter and death threats. You may feel that you have the right to engage in that level of attack, but I disagree.

-Mayor Joe Stahura