NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature was inundated Wednesday night by residents and volunteers demanding the reinstatement of Michael Sanducci as manager of the Hi Tor Animal Shelter.
Sanducci was fired last Saturday for allegedly abandoning the animals and not ensuring the cleanliness of the facility or exercising the canines.
Dozens of residents appealed to the legislature to help restore Sanducci asserting that he was unfairly terminated.
“This is nothing but a post Halloween witch hunt,” said one resident who described the former Hi Tor manager as “nothing but stellar.” Sanducci was also called a “competent, caring, and efficient” manager who “has been there to support the community like no one else.”
Members of the public also decried the current conditions at the shelter, claiming that the level of care provided at the facility has rapidly deteriorated without Sanducci’s guidance.
Caroline Higgins, a frequent volunteer at the shelter, went so far as to show the legislature a recent picture she had taken of a Hi Tor cat suffering from a bloody nose; “this would never happen under Michaels watch,” she concluded.
“These people need to be there,” said Lisa Phillips, another Hi Tor volunteer, referring not only to Sanducci but his fellow employees, many of whom resigned in a show of solidarity with their manager.
County Executive Edwin Day, who recently inspected the facility alongside Rockland Health Department officials, announced that Hi Tor was clean, bowls were filled with food and animals were being walked.
Sanducci says he was fired after he and his staff closed the facility for an hour on October 25th so that they could protest conditions at the shelter to Executive Day. Before the walkout, he said the Hi Tor board warned its staff that they would be fired immediately if they left the premises. Sanducci and his employees ignored the warning and met with the executive anyway.
“I did what I thought was best; I led my staff over to the county executive’s office to voice our concerns about the work and safety hazards for the animals and the staff on the property being the board of directors ignored our complaints numerous times,” Sanducci said. “We thought our last resort was to go to the landlord of our building; we felt they would have some obligation to help us.”
Sanducci said the roof “leaks rusty water in almost every room in the shelter, there’s parts of the shelter that have black mold behind the walls, and there are problems with ventilation systems and all kinds of other things,” said the former manager when discussing the conditions that prompted his trip to the executive’s office. “Our staff has been mistreated, overworked, underpaid, and recently we had some racial discrimination go on with some of the employees here.”
Sanducci said that he and his staff reached an agreement with the county that would allow them to return to work after the incident, yet he was still fired 10 days after the discussion for job abandonment. “It’s really in retaliation for me going above their head and reporting the unfair treatment of the staff and animals at the shelter,” he claims.
Executive Day has said that he stands by the board’s decision to terminate Sanducci.