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Attorney: Council 'Overstepped Boundaries' with Memphis Resolution

Bloomfield Board of Health lawyer blasts town council for proposing to draft settlement in Memphis the pit bull predicament

The latest in the Memphis the pit bull saga has the Bloomfield council and Board of Health (BOH) once again pitted against each other.

In a letter dated Oct. 1 and addressed to Mayor Raymond McCarthy, BOH attorney Ronald J. Ricci accused the council of "overstepping its boundaries and passing resolutions which support a group who is threatening and defaming public employees and the animal shelter under the control of the Bloomfield Board of Health."

The council last week passed a resolution proposing the township's attorney draft some sort of settlement, Bloomfield Life reported, to end a months-long feud between the township, BOH and dog trainers

Memphis, a gold-colored pit bull found as a stray, has been at the center of Bloomfield brouhaha since he was taken in by the town's John A. Bukowski animal shelter in February.

A $1 million civil action lawsuit has been filed by the Lexus Project against the township on Coltenback's behalf, though the Bloomfield resident said he is not listed as a plaintiff, according to Bloomfield Life.

BOH has filed a motion to dismiss that suit because it "lacks any merit," according to Ricci's letter. The mayor read the letter aloud at Monday night's regular meeting, jammed with dozens rallying for the adoption of Memphis.

On Sept. 20, BOH unanimously voted to place Memphis under the control of the Neighbor to Neighbor Network, a volunteer branch within the Department of Health and Human Services, which moved the dog to an undisclosed area. That decision, the letter stated, was "based on the fact that Memphis underwent three separate evaluations by dog behavior experts. All three evaluations indicated that Memphis was not adoptable at the present time."

The Department of Health and Human Services, overseen by the BOH, is an autonomous department that manages the town's animal shelter.

Over the summer, Memphis had been taken in by Coltenback, who specializes in pit bull rehabilitation, but was returned after he was accused of violating his contract by allegedly having the dog around children. Coltenback has vehemently denied those claims.

"No one was ever in harm's way when we had him and no one will ever be in harm's way if we get him back," he said Monday night, adding that he did not know where the dog was being held.

He said the first hearing of the Lexus suit, originally scheduled for Oct. 5, has been postponed to Nov. 9 in Essex County Superior Court.

"We just want the dog back," said Coltenback.

For several consecutive weeks, supporters of Memphis have picketed outside town hall prior to council meetings wearing "Save Memphis" tee shirts and waving signs. The story of Memphis has become somewhat of an internet sensation, inspiring Facebook groups and online petitions with tens of thousands of signatures and drawing support from overseas.

But back home, it has sparked vicious behavior, with several residents accusing others of slander and making threats. McCarthy Monday night denounced the circulation of doctored pictures of Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Karen Lore and public comments made against her.

"This is just not right to try to do damage to somebody," said McCarthy. "I'm not taking sides. This is (about) protecting Karen."

A handful of speakers pleaded with the council Monday night to finally put an end to the Memphis madness.

"I see our town getting torn apart to shreds over this," said Joe Del Guidice. "This is starting to become a cloud that encompasses everything else."

Meanwhile, others called for the council to take action against the BOH, an appointed board.

"You guys appointed the Board of Health, you can dismiss the Board of Health," said Pat Gilleran to the council.

[Editor's note: This story originally published at 5:50 a.m. Tuesday. It has since been updated.]

T.C. October 03, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Coming soon to the town of Bloomfield. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/10/02/pair-of-pitbull-attacks-stun-parts-of-tri-state-area/
Pat Gilleran October 03, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Derek - bring your neighbors to the next town council meeting that you can get to- you don't need a lot of them but numbers will get you more notice. If it is a Conference meeting no sign-up is needed - if it is a Regular meeting there will be a sign up sheet outside the town council chambers - the clerk takes it at 7pm sharp. For a Conference meeting go up to the town clerk before the meeting and tell her what you are all there for- raise you hand as soon as the Mayor asks for Public input and sit in front if you can. Here is the meeting schedule: http://www.bloomfieldtwpnj.com/township-bloomfield I have found that you need to force the Town Council to take notice. I remember when some residents from the third ward (near east orange) came to say that gang members were menacing them and their children and urinating in plain sight on their front yards. They had to come back multiple times. Good luck- hope I see you there! SAVE MEMPHIS AND THE OTHER ANIMALS AT THE SHELTER!
Pat Gilleran October 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Why would you want to send memphis to a farm where he would not get the human interaction that he craves when he has a family that he was loved and happy with. Don't you care about the rest of the animals at the shelter- do you care if they are being cared for- fed, their cages cleaned and forever home being sought for them...this is not happening and yet you think you are King Solomon - knew King Solomon, King Solomon was a friend of mine. Jane, you're no King Solomon!
Naomi Rey October 17, 2012 at 01:39 AM
T. C. your posting of the article about a pit bull attack has nothing to do with Memphis nor this discussion. Mempis is adoptable and needs to be returned to the Coltenbeck's. I don't understand why Karen Lore or the BOH is being so vindictive towards Memphis and the Coltenbeck's. From the reports, the Council voted to settle out of court and return Memphis to the Coltenbeck's. This decision should be respected. The Council has the right to dismiss Lore and the BOH and this would benefit eveyone in the town of Bloomfield and save the innocent dogs.
Pat Gilleran October 17, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Derek, I bring plenty to the table as a solution- remove the animal shelter from under the BOH/Health Department . There is no need for it to be run by officials who have their own agendas that are not in the best interests of Bloomfield or the animals. Some of us are starting discussions of a county wide no-kill shelter- doesn't necessarily have to be in Bloomfield. I would like to see a full scale investigation of unethical practices at the BOH/health Department and have given the Township Administrator lots of documents obtained by OPRA requests.

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