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Commissioner Marie Atake resigns over failings of Antonio Villaraigosa’s Animal Services

Los Angeles City Animal Services Commissioner Marie Atake resigned August 31 over the failings of Director Ed Boks and Jimmy Blackman from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office.

August 31, 2007
Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa
Mayor’s Office, City of Los Angeles

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

For two years, I have worked very hard to help improve the Department of Animal Services (LAAS) and protect the integrity of the Mayor’s office as your appointed Commissioner.

However, my seeking transparency, clarity and honesty is apparently what Mr. Blackman, your Deputy Chief of Staff, does not want me to do. His consistent refusal to hold Mr. Ed Boks, the General Manager, accountable — for his actions, including making false, misleading and inflammatory comments to your office, staff, City Council, the public, and the media— has made my efforts ineffective at every level.

When I told Mr. Blackman that Mr. Boks would not shut down his city website blog, against the advice of the LAPD’s Threat Management unit, Mr. Blackman dismissed my concerns and called it merely “one of the many wrong things Boks has done” that he’s already aware of and would not take any action.

On the city website, Mr. Boks recently bashed the Director of LA County Animal Control and attacked one of the most reputable animal-welfare organizations which has provided invaluable assistance to the city’s department. Instead of allowing the Commission to keep Mr. Boks under control, it is my opinion that Mr. Blackman conceals critical facts and protects Mr. Boks’ misbehavior from your view.

As a result, one such distortion made you appear uninformed at a recent press conference about the state of the city animal shelters. Consequently, several media outlets are presently investigating your claims of LAAS success.

Mr. Blackman looked the other way on another serious problem when Mr. Boks grossly misled City Council on August 3rd, during Item #41. As a result, City Council had to table an innovative program when it was discovered that Mr. Boks failed to consult with the Commission, Personnel and SEIU.

Recently, the Commission discovered its serious procedural problems with a past appeal. I was not involved with this particular appeal, however, I felt it was the Commission’s sworn duty to right its wrongs, and restore its integrity, when the process was violated, with unfairness and prejudice appearing high and harmful.

Unfortunately I have learned that certain members of your administration, this department and the Commission are incapable of acknowledging errors, therein misleading the public. Such actions (or inactions) are resulting in the needless suffering and death of many animals, mistreatment of the public, and wasting of financial and human capital.

You are welcome to contact me if you wish to be further informed about Mr. Boks’ crises, including, but not limited to, the veterinarian shortage; unopened spay/neuter clinics; zero foreign language outreach; shelter overcrowding; delayed shelter openings; end-runs on key stakeholders; and a tidal wave of public relations disasters.

As I recall, one of your campaign platforms was to uphold the ethical standards expected by the city residents. Most recently, you stressed the importance of accountability. While these values may not matter to some of your key staff, I hope they still matter to you.

In closing, I am resigning my position as a Commissioner because I can no longer, in good conscience, be a part of such demoralization. I wish that I were allowed to apply my business skills and expertise as a nonprofit organization leader, (the reason why you appointed me), to fully serve the people and animals of Los Angeles, which is supposed to be the City of Angels.

Graciously,

Marie Atake