It seems a day can't go by without some drama regarding the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care. Today's edition involves a 2006 allegation of abuse against BARC Interim Bureau Chief Gerry Fusco made by his then-wife.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office report was posted on an online animal-advocacy forum and e-mailed to council members this morning.
The report states that a sheriff's deputy was dispatched to the home of Gerry and Jennifer Fusco in August 2006, whereupon Jennifer stated that a drunken Fusco dumped garbage on her head and hit her in the arm or shoulder. The report also states, "The complainant [Jennifer] stated the suspect [Gerry] told her he had two words for her...'Scott Peterson.'" (For those of you not up on your Missing White Woman history, Scott Peterson is the dude who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, in 2002, dumping her body in the San Francisco Bay).
Gerry Fusco was never arrested or charged in connection to the allegation. The couple divorced in 2008, and the ex-wife declined comment this morning.
Fusco declined comment as well, but Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Kathy Barton stated in an e-mail, "The Sheriff's report only presented the wife's complaint. No charges were filed in the incident, and no conclusions appear to be drawn in the report. It is my observation that divorce seldom brings out the best in people."
In the absence of charges, this obviously boils down to a he said/she said situation. But Hair Balls called council members today to see if they've read the report and, if so, if they felt it would have any impact on how they would vote on Fusco's 6-month, $185,000 contract Wednesday.
Councilman Jarvis Johnson told us he hadn't read the report, but "I have heard...that there was a report of Fusco's divorce...during a rough time in his life." He added that, "Until I see it, at this point, I'm looking at the job that he's doing, the contractual obligations that he will be bound to...[are] really what I'm looking at, in terms of how we make our decision on bringing somebody in who can turn this...department around."
Councilwoman Wanda Adams also hadn't seen the report when we talked to her, but it didn't sound like it would make a difference: Adams said there were other ways to spend the proposed $135,000, like hiring a permanent bureau chief.
"The citizens have already identified what the problems are," Adams told Hair Balls. She added later, "We just need someone to come in, but not someone to get $200,000 [sic] from us, be here for...six months, or whatever it is, and then leave us. To me, it doesn't make any sense."
Councilman Ronald Green told us the report didn't have any bearing on Fusco's work with BARC. "If he had had a cruelty to animal charge, I'd be very concerned," Green said. "I don't really get into people's personal [lives]."
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Green said he hadn't reviewed the proposed contract and would probably seek to table the vote for at least a week.
"For something as important at BARC," he said, "I really want to know more than just from the business aspect of how we're going to turn around this thing, because most of the people who are complaining about this, in my opinion, aren't complaining about the business practices, they're complaining about the care practices, and that's what I have a question about....This guy is a business-turnaround specialist, but is that totally applicable to BARC?"
We're waiting to hear back from other council members and will update accordingly.