The town of Chester's dog shelter, nearing completion, is intended to be used to steer more stray dogs into adoption rather than euthanasia. The adoption program's proponents included Chester's recent animal control officer June Maxam, who was terminated from her position Feb. 23 soon after she aired comments tinged with anger at the town board as they discussed animal control and adoption policies.
The controversial and stormy three-month tenure of June Maxam as town of Chester Animal Control Officer came to an end Thursday night.
At the conclusion of a special town meeting Feb. 23, the town board voted to relieve Maxam of her duties immediately and pay her up through Tuesday night — as well as award her two weeks severance pay.
Voting to end her employment in the part-time post were board members Michael Packer, Stephen Durkish, Edna Wells and Karen DuRose. Voting against the termination was town Supervisor Fred Monroe.
The vote was taken after a closed-door session that lasted about 40 minutes. Immediately before, the board had discussed details of proposed amendments to the town animal control and adoption policies.
Town Board member Karen DuRose questioned whether it was appropriate to require potential adoptees of stray dogs to list the names and ages of all members of the household, including children.
“This is a little intense,” she said of the proposed adoption procedure. DuRose also questioned whether a proposed adoption fee of $150 might be a deterrent to adoptions.
Maxam responded by jabbing her finger in the air toward DuRose and asking in an angry tone, “Do you have any idea what it costs to maintain an animal per year?”
“If you don’t want the dog for $150, you don’t deserve the dog. — he doesn’t belong in your home,” she continued.
Others questioned whether home visits and evaluations of home ambiance were really appropriate, or would yield valuable and representative information.
As he discussion progressed, Maxam left the meeting, and didn’t return.
After announcing their decision to oust Maxam, town board members refused to comment on their decision.
“It just didn’t work out,” Stephen Durkish said.
Monroe said enough had already been aired on the subject.
“There’s been enough controversy — I don’t want to comment,” he said.
Maxam’s employment status hadn’t been clear to many this past week, as she had indicated to the town board Feb. 14 that she’d quit, Monroe confirmed Friday. Monroe said Maxam voiced her resignation because she felt the board had not backed her up in an apparent disagreement she had with her niece over an adoption of a dog obtained through Maxam.
Two days later, however, she was back at work on the job, Monroe said the day afterwards. He said that although some people felt she no longer in fact held the job, he thought the resignation would need to be submitted in writing to be effective — and it wasn’t. Monroe praised her work, particularly on her efforts in seeking adoptions for abandoned animals.
Her appointment in November to the $6,600-per-year post had sparked dozens of calls, letters, emails and blog posts criticizing the action.
Maxam for three decades has assailed public officials and local citizens through her website and newspaper, North Country Gazette.
Some citizens had said they wondered how she could effectively enforce the town and state’s dog control laws, as so many citizens could contend they wouldn’t have a fair court hearing because they’ve been targets of her criticism through her writings.