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Search for Pinellas Animal Services director on hold for now

Pinellas Administrator Bob LaSala has declined to hire either finalist for the top job in the county's Animal Services Department.

It doesn't appear that county officials plan to immediately reopen the search. LaSala said Friday that he wants to solidify improvements to the department before looking for a new director.

"After careful consideration of all the input from staff and review of all relevant materials gathered on these two candidates, I did not offer the position to either candidate," LaSala said Friday.

At least one animal welfare activist was pleased with LaSala's position. Dan Hester, a former Seminole City Council member who has been an animal advocate, had criticized the 55 applicants as generally being "weak."

Hester was especially critical of the two finalists, Christina Gulick, 46, director of the community control department at the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and Leslie Tisdale, 54, an animal control director with the Palm Springs Police Department. Gulick has no animal services experience.

"I am pleased to hear that they will continue to search," Hester said.

He was also happy to hear LaSala had decided to work on improving the agency before reopening the search.

"Animal services needs to define who they are and what they want to be in the long term before they go out and fill a position as critical as director," Hester said.

The Animal Services job came open last year after the abrupt resignation of Phillip Morgan. Morgan, who had only been on the job for three months, was accused in a human resources investigative report as having made vulgar remarks to employees. Morgan denied the charges, saying some employees had sought to discredit him because they did not want to make changes.

LaSala appointed assistant county administrator Maureen Freaney as interim head of animal services. She will continue in that role to work on five areas, including improved administrative procedures and practices and partnerships with local animal welfare advocates.

"It is our intent to make substantial progress in all of these areas before initiating a new search for a permanent director," LaSala said.

"By doing so, we will be able to market this position and the department to the very best and brightest in the animal services industries and attract the appropriate candidate for the position."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com.

Search for Pinellas Animal Services director on hold for now 03/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 9:41pm]
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