Fired Carson City Animal Services director sues, says city violated her rights
September 6, 2013
Carson City faces a lawsuit stemming from the unpopular euthanasia of a dog last month, and it wasn’t filed by the dog’s owner.
Former Carson City Animal Services manager Gail Radtke, who was ousted from her post after news of the dog’s death became public and spurred outrage among many, claims city officials violated her rights and city code. She seeks unspecified damages.
Resident Jeraldine Archuleta’s dog was put to sleep after she couldn’t come up with fines totaling more than $100 within three days of its capture. In the suit, Radke says the dog was put to sleep in line with Animal Services’ policies. Radtke’s suit says that when Archuleta wrote about the experience in a letter to the Nevada Appeal, City Manager Larry Werner and Deputy City Manager Marena Works told the news media they were amending shelter rules in what she argues were ways “contrary to Carson City Code and contrary to good practices.”
Works stated the same in a story published Aug. 6, saying she wanted to see euthanasia policies at the shelter tightened.
“While it was within our legal right,” she said then of the euthanasia, “there is no doubt that we should have let more time go by so that we had a chance to rectify the situation.” She added that there would be no further euthanasias if an owner turns up.
Archuleta’s letter, published Aug. 4, has spurred numerous follow-up letters to the editor from other readers. After it was published, the city closed the shelter for three days “for intensive workforce development training in customer service, ethical decision making and best practices,” the city stated in a release on Aug. 5.
Radke’s complaint, filed by Reno lawyer Jeff Dickerson, charges that Werner and Works suggested the dog’s death was unnecessary, was improper to city policy, “and further implicated that Plaintiff had engaged in wrongdoing in connection with Rollie (the dog’s) death.”
It charges those statements were “false and defamatory to Plaintiff” and “in reckless disregard of the falsity of the statements.”
Radke said in the complaint that when she responded to their statements attempting to explain the situation, the city fired her, causing serious harm to her professional reputation and emotional distress.
In the meantime, Cal Dunlap, the lawyer for the dog’s owner, has suggested his client might sue. He was unavailable for comment this week. Also this week, the city hired former Fircrest, Wash., City Manager William H. Brandon as Animal Services’ interim leader.