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Published: Sunday, 12/6/2009

'Clarifying' a lie

FINALLY, the truth about how Dog Warden Tom Skeldon does his job is beginning to come out, and what this shocking development shows is that a purportedly dedicated public servant is willing to lie to and then stonewall the very people he is supposed to serve.

Everyone remembers Princess, the unlicensed Pomeranian-beagle mix that got loose from its North Toledo home; was chased and shot with a tranquilizer dart by dog warden's deputies, and was soon dead.

In February, Mr. Skeldon said Princess died from the tranquilizer, which led to a public outcry over why a 10-pound dog had been darted at all. The truth, however, was much worse.

Last week, after a six-month battle by an animal advocacy group to obtain the pound's records, and faced with a Blade news story about to reveal the truth about the dog's death, Mr. Skeldon "clarified" his earlier statement to say that Princess actually was killed at the pound.

In other words, Mr. Skeldon lied about how Princess died, then spent months attempting to prevent his lie from becoming known.

The warden was abetted in his stonewalling by Lucas County Assistant Prosecutor John Borell, who as recently as Aug. 11 claimed the incriminating documents didn't exist. This same prosecutor has been in the middle of a dispute over e-mails that could show illegal activity at the elections board. He also variously denied the existence of or refused to reveal those records too.

Pound records claim that Princess was bleeding from the dart wound and may have been having seizures. Mr. Skeldon's solution was not to have her seen by a veterinarian but, within minutes of the dog arriving at the pound, to have pound manager Bonnie Mitchell inject the little dog with a lethal dose of chemicals.

Mr. Skeldon's claim that he was just following state law is disingenuous. Ohio Revised Code 955.16 requires a veterinarian to certify the necessity of killing an injured or diseased dog if it is licensed but permits the warden to make the decision on his own if the animal is unlicensed. That doesn't mean the warden can't call in a vet for an unlicensed animal, just that he doesn't have to.

Under Mr. Skeldon, the law has been used as permission to kill, his preferred policy, and now he attempts to hide behind the claim that he was "only following orders." The result is a quick death for most unlicensed animals and the indiscriminate killing of so-called pit bull breeds, including puppies.

The evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Skeldon is trigger-happy, cruel, and out of touch both with the sentiment of the community and evolving standards of canine care. Now he has proved willing to engage in lies and cover-ups to hide his activities from public scrutiny. He therefore has lost whatever claim he may have had to the public's trust. How can anyone believe anything he has said?

Even now, Commissioner Pete Gerken is on record that lying to voters and taxpayers is not enough to have Mr. Skeldon fired, while Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the warden's cousin, consistently puts family loyalty above the public interest. Safely three years out from the next election, they thumb their noses at the people who put them in office.

The only thing standing between Mr. Skeldon and the door is the protection of two arrogant county commissioners.

How long will they continue to provide cover for his lies?



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