Sheriff to manage Animal Control

File photo
File photo

Sheriff Jody Greene was named interim director of Animal Control Monday.

The county commissioners, in a unanimous vote, approved putting the troubled department under the sheriff’s office while Director Loretta Shipman is on extended medical leave.

Shipman is expected to return to her post when she recovers, Greene said Tuesday morning.

Sheriff Jody Greene

Commissioner Laverne Coleman made the motion to temporarily hand the duty to Greene, and Vice Chair Jerome MacMillian gave the second.

The vote came after an executive session to discuss personnel, property acquisition and public safety.

The shelter has been at the center of several controversies in recent years.

Shipman was hired by Rossie Hayes, who was in charge at Animal Control for 22 years before his retirement in 2015. 

Shipman became director after Joey Prince left the position in 2017. Prince is currently awaiting trial on charges he improperly used funds that were donated to a GoFundMe account he administered with the permission of the county manager. He took in a total of $2,513 in donations, including two other GoFundMe accounts. 

Prince had permission of then-County Manager Bill Clark to set up and use the GoFundMe account, which did not involve county funds. The county has acknowledged that Clark gave Prince permission to handle the fundraiser outside of his official duties. The county also failed to retain emails exchanged between Prince, Clark and the county finance office.

Days after he left the county’s employment, an account book was stolen during a break-in at the shelter. Then-county attorney  Mike Stephens said that without the account book, a full audit could not be conducted of the shelter’s finances. 

Stephens was later hired as county manager. According to emails obtained from the county,  Stephens ordered then-sheriff Lewis Hatcher, and detectives Jason Soles and Paul Rockenbach to stop an investigation into reports of missing adoption fees at the shelter.

Some of the funds were originally raised for a largescale transport of rescue dogs to the Northeastern U.S., Prince said in an email. While the planning on that effort fell through, Prince used the funds to help pay for transportation for other animals, as well as medications and supplies. Prince said he spent money out of his own pocket on top of the donations for the required materials. Prince said he has offered his receipts to the District Attorney’s office, after having originally offered the records to the sheriff’s office before his arrest in 2018.

Pay for the position rose from $37,000 to more than $42,000 when Shipman was hired.

Several break-ins have been reported at the shelter since 2015, with the thieves taking laptop computers, cash and animal medications. 

The most recent break-in occurred in January, when three dogs, cash and medications were stolen. Two of the dogs belonged to Shipman, and were returned by a Clarkton man who purchased the dogs from an online seller. The third dog was later found running free on Legion Drive.

County commissioners had approved funding for a security system at the shelter last year, but the equipment was not working during the latest break-in. Cameras had not been hooked up, and the system had no power, when investigators were called about the thefts.

Previous break-ins targeted computers that were used for record keeping and managing adoptions.

In 2015, then-Director Hayes called the sheriff’s office after finding a discrepancy in the handwritten account ledger. In that case, the pages in question were found “glued together” according to investigators. The District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute the case.

Two shelter employees were dismissed earlier this year, and two others resigned.

Greene said he expects to meet with Animal Control employees in the near future to discuss operations at the shelter. Greene also said he hopes Shipman makes a speedy recovery.

About Jefferson Weaver 1954 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].