Todd Bencivengo Questioned About Hamilton Shelter
Topic: COMMUNITY INTEREST
Todd Bencivengo Questioned About Hamilton Shelter
Nov 9 2018
By Tammy Duffy
We will get to the summit for the animals in Hamilton.
Yesterday, the special committee that has been assigned to investigate the issues at the Hamilton Township Animal shelter performed interviews. They asked numerous questions of Marty Flynn, Jeff Plunkett and Todd Bencivengo as it pertains to the Hamilton Animal Shelter. We will share with you the one on one commentary from today’s questioning. We will warn you that this is heartbreaking. There were moments that the testimony brought tears to my eyes. As you know I adopted a turtle from this shelter and I am flabbergasted after today’s testimony that my Elbra (the turtle I rescued from the Hamilton shelter) survived 5 years at the shelter.
As you are aware, two of the Hamilton council members; Ileana Schirmer and Richard Tighe were appointed as the special committee to investigate the issues at the Mercer County, Hamilton Animal Shelter. There was a recent subpoena sent to the township on the animal shelter and the refused to respond to it. It was not until today, Nov. 9, 2018 did the special committee receive some of the information that was subpoenaed. This will extend the investigation indefinitely due to the lack of response from the township administration.
Investigation Commentary Key
IS: Ileana Schirmer
RT: Richard Tighe
JP: Jeff Plunkett
MF: Marty Flynn
TB: Todd Bencivengo
Yesterday’s investigation started with the questioning of Todd Bencivengo
IS: Since the July 16th inspection what changes have taken place at the shelter?
TB: New chemicals are being used, the clerical aspects are better and the staff is being schooled.
Let’s OPRA the schooling of the staff. We cannot believe that this is actually happening. What are they being schooled in?
RT: There was a problem with the floor with chemicals has that been addressed?
TB: Yes, The main hall was never cleaned with chemicals since 2014, the opening of the shelter. They were told they could not use disinfectant on it. They have since been trained on what to use on the floor.
RT: Let’s discuss the use of drugs at the shelter with the animals and euthanasia. Right now when animals are found injured what happens?
TB: Any sick or injured animal goes straight to the vet.
OPRA TIME……let’s ask for the transportation records of all the sick and injured animals. There was an injured animal in front of my house, a deer. The police came and shot it twice in the head right in front of my house. They then dragged the carcass to the side of the road where animal control came two days later to remove the deer.
TB: We have a locked metal box for the drugs.
RT: How many staff members do you have?
TB: I believe 12 or 13. ACO’s, Assistant ACO, and animal Assistants. I work mainly inside. ACO Mumford does the meds and works inside as well. I started at the shelter in 1982 as an assistant ACO. Before that I was an animal attendant. Back then there was no training all OJT. However, I have gotten my certification to be an ACO and go for continuing education every year.
We forgot to share with you, during Mr Plunkett’s testimony he was asked if he ever reviewed the staff’s credentials. Guess what…he did not. He asked them what their background was, but no background check was ever done to validate their claims. If you get a job at McDonald’s they do background checks for Christ sake. Yet, to run the animal shelter, any helter skelter can say they have such and such credentials and the township does not check to see if they have the credentials. This is not how the tax payers dollars should be spent.
OPRA time….let's ask for all of Todd and the other ACOS’s certifications and continuing education credits for the past 20 years and see what they share back? The residents cannot take Todd’s word that he actually has a certification and does all the required continuing education.
IS: What is your responsibility?
TB: The staff and animals
IS: Paperwork and policies?
TB: I school the employees on what they should be doing. I can only continue to emphasize over and over the proper way. Policies are posted.
IS: How are new people trained?
TB: John Coakie trains them and the chemical companies come in to train on the use of their chemicals
OPRA TIME: Ask for John Coakies training records over the years
IS: How can you say you trained on policies when Mr Plunkett testified that prior to the July 2018 inspection, there were no SOP’s at the shelter.
TB: Since July things are not posted
IS: So how are the employees reviewed?
TB: We do not do reviews of the employees. He would just to course correct the employees. It is an ongoing issue.
WHAT!!! How is this possible? We have all this going on and no one has ever bothered to do a review? Do they do zero reviews in the entire township. OPRA TIME: ask for all the internal reviews of employees in the township. Let’s start with Richard Williams, Marty Flynn, Jeff Plunkett. How is it that the township employees get merit increases, what are those based on? This is the ultimate shenanigan.
IS: Do the maintenance of the meds fall under him”
TB: No, it falls under the ACO assigned to the meds.
AGAIN, push the accountability off. Todd is the supervising ACO. This gives him the role of supervising the entire shelter. He cannot have the liberty to push off any responsibility of things not done by his employees.
RT: Do ACO’s all do the same tasks?
TB: Some do meds, some do road assignments. They staff 7 days a week.
RT: In a typical week how many animals do they handle?
TB: 3 to 5 animals a day. Right now, we have about 25 dogs in the shelter and more than that in cats
IS: I went into the back room where the euthanasia is performed, and the meds were locked but there was so much stuff on the exam table you could only see a small portion of the table. Who is responsible for logging in the meds?
TB: No one is responsible for that. The vet orders the medicines. They are sent to the shelter. The receipt goes to the health department. There is no log book for when the meds arrive.
WHAT? How is this possible? They have and have had hard narcotics at the shelter and no one was keeping a log? The state requires this. How does the ACO who has worked at the shelter since 1982 not know this? How does he feel that this is not his responsibility to ensure the meds are accounted for?
IS: You are the supervisor, how is it that you have no responsibility?
TB: I make sure the other ACO’s that are assigned to that task do their jobs. I can only guide them I cannot force them to do their jobs
IS: Where you aware of the 7 day period?
TB: We would just euthanize the animals per the direction of my director who is Jeff Plunkett. We would take the documentation that the owners would bring in and but that in the files with the euthanasia’s.
OPRA TIME: Let’s ask for all the euthanasia records that clearly demonstrate the owners past medical history of all animals euthanized during Todd’s tenure. Mr Plunkett testified differently. He stated that they would just euthanize the animals, no questions asked.
IS: Prior to the July inspection there was no scale at the shelter to weigh the animals to properly administer the drugs for euthanasia. How did you know the weight of the animals?
TB: The owners always brought their paperwork from their vets so we would use that as a reference or we would just estimate their weight.
IS: Who made the decision to euthanize the animals?
TB: My director and the vet. I never make that decision. I have not euthanized an animal in years.
IS: Where are the missing meds that were discovered in the inspection?
TB: I was never aware anything was missing. It is the responsibility of the ACO assigned to the meds to log in the drugs.
RT: Where all ACO’s trained?
OPRA TIME: Ask for all training on ACO’s during Todd’s tenure.
IS: How is it acceptable that you have missing or expired drugs?
TB: I was not aware of either. As the supervisor I am in house. But we never had a policy for the meds. I have to correct bad behaviors from time to time. I am hopeful the new process will be fool proof.
RT: Let’s talk about the hoarding issues in the township. How many incidents would you say happen?
TB: 3 to 5 a year
RT: On May 22, 2017 a hoarding situation was discovered there were 46 cats. Why were they all euthanized that day?
TB: They all had ring worm and upper respiratory issues. Both myself and Jeff Plunkett made the decision to euthanize all the animals.
HOLD THE PHONE TODD….Just a few minutes ago you said you never make the decision and have not euthanized an animal in years. Why the contradiction?
RT: Would it not be odd that all 46 cats had the exact same diagnosis?
TB: No it was a small condo.
RT: Did you reach out to any rescues or other shelters for help on this
TB: No. We did call Columbus Animal and Mercerville Animal Hospital. Another time we has 102 cats with a hoarding situation and my director and I made the decision to euthanize all of those cats due to cost and lack of space at the shelter.
YET Hamilton touts they are a NO KILL shelter. I guess killing has numerous definitions.
RT: What method did they use to euthanize the 46 cats?
TB: They were tranquilized and then euthanized by using cardiac method.
MORE contradictions happened over the course of the next few moments. Todd went on to say that he knew how the 46 cats were killed. Then after further questioning he said, I was not in the room for the euthanasia, so I cannot say how they were killed.”
IS: Why is there no stethoscope in the euthanasia room? How do you tell if the animals are expired?
Todd had no response to this question. He stammered to say there was one in the shelter but never answered why it was never in the room where they killed the animals. There were continued questions on the shelter’s relationship with volunteers and nonprofits that clearly is in need of optimization. IS showed a VPH20 form to Todd. N.J.A.C. 8:23A 1.9(a) requires that this form be updated yearly and posted at the facility in an area clearly visible to the public. LICENSED ANIMAL FACILITY INFORMATION Name of Licensed Animal Facility. License Number. IS demonstrated the forms from two years that had the same exact cross outs and the signature for the vet looked exactly like the signature that Todd signed when he adopted a dog from the shelter. So, this begs the question, where was Dr Carter in all of this? Has the council questioned Dr Carter under oath? Maybe that is in order. Something is not smelling good here. Aug 7th was the last euthanasia that was performed at the shelter. The shelter would like to have people foster the animals to try to find homes for them. Todd stated they are adopting out 5 to 10 animals a week. OPRA that gang, for we find that hard to believe as well.
In companies where leadership does not care and only worry about themselves, these are companies set for large failure. Hamilton Township is failing, the leadership is failing the residents and the animals at the shelter. This towns culture is broken and costing tax payers millions of dollars. The unresponsiveness, bottlenecks decisions, waste of time and money that is an epidemic has to come to an end. There has to be accountability and it starts at the top with the Mayor, Mr Plunkett, Mr Flynn and Todd Bencivengo.
Allowing members of your team to be unresponsive allows them to become less connected to their responsibilities. The Hamilton employees and leadership has allowed this to happen. Any manager or leader that allows this should not be in their position. There has to change in Hamilton before more animals are killed needlessly and millions of tax payer dollars are continued to be wasted. To allow all of this to continue is just criminal.
We do not want to inundate the clerk’s office with numerous OPRA requests, yet this information is needed by council to make informed decisions. We can only hope they read these articles and take them into action.
The Mayor of Hamilton, who claims to be an animal lover has been completely silent through all of this. What does this mean for the well being of the animals? Does she not care? Anyone who is a true animals lover is heartbroken over what is going on in Hamilton. Is there more to this story and she is terrified it will come out in the investigation? Time will tell.
The council has their work cut out for them. It was discovered that the $1.1 million of tax payer dollars that was spent on the shelter was only for the shell of the renovation. They now have to go into the capital budgets to weed through what the renovation actually cost. Hold onto your hats residents, we have a feeling that number is going to blow the lids off your pots. The Division of Health testified that they just cut checks to the invoices they were given. They never looked to see if the work was actually done. This is how the town of Hamilton is being run.
Posted by tammyduffy
at 8:27 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 November 2018 8:47 AM EST