By Patrick Yost
Madison City Council member Carrie Peters–Reid called it “going down a rabbit hole.”
Council member Joe DiLetto was exasperated. “We’ve taken what is a simple and horrible act done by an animal and can’t make a decision about whether someone is bitten or not.”
In the end, a meeting Monday night by the Madison City Council to ostensibly vote on an appeal by a Madison couple regarding their dogs being deemed “dangerous” ended with another meeting scheduled.
The council was scheduled to meet August 17 at 5 p.m. to resolve the appeal.
Monday’s meeting was set after last week’s attempt to vote on the matter was postponed to give the council members time to digest an 85 page report on the events.
On May 3, prior testimony has stated, Gary Roberts, allegedly a de facto employee of All In One Pool company was bitten by two dogs in the back fence of Jeff Davis and Carrie Christie’s East Avenue home. Roberts was supposedly at the residence to examine the couple’s pool.
Following the bite, which has not been questioned, the city of Madison’s Animal Control Officer Crystal Berisko deemed the dogs “dangerous.” That designation can affect the manner in which and where the animals can be kept.
On Monday as Madison City Attorney Joe Reitman was refreshing the council on the purpose of Monday’s meeting as the “adjudication” phase of the appeal, Reitman was interrupted by Christie. Both Christie and Davis are attorneys.
Christie argued before the council that state law “entitles home owners to present evidence.” She said at the prior meeting the couple “never agreed that we would present evidence.” She said that the couple had acquired three affidavits that would rebuke statements made at the prior meeting including that one of the dogs bit a veterinarian and that the pool company had a pattern of arriving at residences without notice.
“The owner of the dog shall be give the opportunity to present evidence,” she read from statue.
“We have evidence that specifically rebuts these claims and the investigation.”
Reitman warned the council to not allow further evidence into the matter. “My advice to you is not to open it up this evening.”
“We agreed last week that we are done,” he said.
However, Christie continued to press the council on allowing further evidence and said the evidence was necessary, in part, because the couple claimed both the animal control officer Berisko and Det. Scott Pitocchelli’s investigations into the event was substandard at best.
She said she queried Pitocchelli regarding whether or not he made investigation into allegations that Roberts had trespassed onto the couple’s property to make the pool inspection. “His response was ‘no,’ there had been no investigation the trespass, contrary to what (Madison Police Chief Bill Ashbury) said.”
Christie said the couple had provided police with several names of individuals that would verify their claims. “They were never contacted,” she said.
“What the chief of police said never took place. It never took place.”
Ashbury said “The man was not criminally trespassing. I’ll stand by what I said.”
Pitocchelli said during questioning by the council that during his investigation into the matter he believed “the dogs were in the house.”
Allegations by Roberts are that after he entered the back yard, someone peered out a window and released the dogs. Davis and Christie have maintained that the dogs were in the back yard during the entire incident.
Pitocchelli said part of his investigation was to determine if the dogs were released with the intent to bite Roberts and if so if criminal charges could be filed. “I know they weren’t let out intentionally,” he said. “There was not intent to let the dogs out. That’s what I determined in my investigation.”
During the 90 minute meeting, dominated by stern requests to have further evidence admitted to the proceedings by Davis and Christie, the council and Mayor Fred Permian expressed frustration.
“We could go on and on about this. I would like for this council to follow our legal counsel. We need to make a decision tonight.”
DiLettto called the proceedings “insanity.”
“He (Roberts) was sent to do a job. In no way can I find that to be trespassing and you initiated the contact,” he said to Christie.
Christie said that prior to the appeal hearing the couple had already decided to remove the dogs from the property and that since the story had appeared in last week’s Morgan County Citizen, the couple had been inundated with offers from county residents willing to take the dogs. She said regardless of the outcome the couple would move the dogs, pay for fencing, food and medical care for the life of the dogs at another location. “We don’t want to keep the dogs there but we don’t want the dangerous dog tag.”
“We have always gone beyond what is in our own self interest for what is best for the community,” she said.
At 6:15 p.m. Mayor Permian interrupted Christie while she was arguing a trespassing statute. “We’re not getting anything resolved right now,” he said.
Christie continued to argue her point and was stopped by DiLetto.
“I don’t think you’ve shown good sense here,” he said. “The dog came after me one time. To me it’s pretty simple. Your dog bit Mr. Roberts and he’s a bad dog.”
Christie again faulted the city’s investigation. “Not a single person was questioned,” she said.
Peters–Reid said that despite the city’s decision to not accept further evidence from either Davis and Christie or Roberts’ attorney Joe Spurlin, the point was not moot because the couple had argued before the council. Spurlin had previously sent the council a letter citing a court conflict on Monday preventing him from attending the hearing. However, he did state in the letter that his understanding of the proceeding was the council was going to question investigators and use the 85 page investigative report as source materials to make a decision.
“I don’t know if its fair to Mr. Spurlin since we’ve already done it (heard further testimony)” said Peters–Reid.
“If we are going to be ladies and gentlemen of our word we’ve got to inform all parties,” said Reitman. Council member Rick Blanton said the council should give Spurlin an opportunity to be present when Christie submits her affidavits and then the council should vote. “Let’s get this behind us,” he said.
Reitman said he would notify Spurlin and Roberts of the Wednesday meeting.