A township supervisor looking to make his case against the York County SPCA had the tables turned Wednesday when a York County Commissioner pointed out that the man had been investigated by the organization he was publicly deriding.
President County Commissioner Steve Chronister said he thinks the personal history of Steven H. Gross Jr., chairman of the East Manchester Township board of supervisors, might've shaped Gross's criticism of the nonprofit.
Gross said he went to the commissioners' public meeting to present his side of the story about the township's refusal to enter into a contract with the SPCA. He said township officials have been "bullied" by the SPCA for refusing to pay the full amount the organization is requesting for stray animal services.
Referencing Nazi-era propaganda, he told commissioners the SPCA recently "used its nonprofit status" to mail a letter to East Manchester residents to inform them the SPCA would no longer be accepting stray or injured pets from the township.
Gross took issue with the nonprofit's requested payment for its services, saying the organization was essentially imposing a per-person "tax" and operating beyond its authority.
He said after the meeting the organization perpetuates the misconception that its services are mandatory; it abuses its nonprofit status, trying to act as a governmental agency, which it is not.
Defends SPCA: After listening to Gross's concerns during a public comment period, Chronister said he realizes there are two sides to every story.
But he said he suspects Gross, not the residents of the township, was leading the dispute with the SPCA.
He asked Gross if he had ever been investigated by the SPCA, and Gross said that he had. A farmer, he had been investigated for claims related to his goats, Gross said.
SPCA Executive Director Melissa Smith said she was "disappointed but not surprised" at Gross's comments.
"Over the course of trying to get resolution to this matter ... this whole issue seems to me to have turned into a personal crusade of Chairman Gross' rather than an exploration of the facts," she said. "In addition to the fact that (the Nazi reference) is an absurd comparison, the reason our organization felt compelled to let the East Manchester Township residents know about this is this issue is going to come to a head at the front desk of our shelter."
The SPCA will have to turn away good Samaritans who bring in animals from East Manchester, she said, and it was necessary to notify people.
She confirmed that the SPCA had "more than once" received calls about possible cruelty regarding goats on Gross' property, but she said no citations were filed and the details were confidential.
The background: East Manchester Township board members haven't signed a contract for services in 2013 and never signed a contract for 2012.
Despite having no contract with the township for 2012, Smith said the SPCA continued to provide services as supervisors mulled contract renewal.
She said continuing to serve an area that hasn't paid is unfair to municipalities that do pay. The SPCA's fee structure charges 50 cents per capita for each municipality. For East Manchester Township, that meant $3,632 last year.
Gross said the township offered to pay $1,500, but the SPCA refused to accept it.
In the absence of an agreement with an SPCA, township residents who find stray or injured dogs have been advised to call 911.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.