BARC Culture Labeled "Unacceptable"

Houston councilmembers delayed approval of a contract to hire a turnaround agent at BARC. The council also heard from an outside consultant on the culture and perceptions of the city's animal control department. Laurie Johnson reports.

Although Gerry Fusco is already working and implementing changes at the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, his $135,000 contract for that work is still up in the air. He's already been authorized to spend nearly $50,000 on the department's turnaround, without a completed contract.

Councilmembers Ron Green and Pam Holm tagged the contract, citing a desire to review the terms for  another week before approving it.

Meanwhile, outside consultant Margaret Robinson shared her analysis of BARC after interviewing and surveying stakeholders in animal welfare issues.

"The culture there really is a very toxic work culture. A lot of "gotcha" kind of missions going on there. An us vs. them kind of dynamic going on with all the stakeholder groups, but I would say most especially between the employees and the volunteers who clearly need to be working together."

Robinson, who was hired by the mayor's office to conduct the multi-stakeholder initiative, calls the situation at BARC completely unacceptable.

"If there's nothing else that you hear me say today, this is it — that you all, the city, have really got to make sure that you instate strong, capable leadership at BARC and that you mandate and empower to make the changes to turn it around."

The mayor says that turnaround is already underway under the leadership of Gerry Fusco. And he says the city is committed to finding the right people to carry BARC forward.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...