29 October 2019

SHARK Letter to Monterey County, CA officials re: Unenforced Cockfighting Ordinance, October 28, 2019

Dear Mr. Ramirez,

I was shocked to read your threatening, unprofessional and rather incoherent response to the four very legitimate questions I asked you. I'm glad you included the County Counsel and DA in your response, as they will surely tell you that asking questions does not constitute libel. To quote The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, “...it is generally settled as a matter of defamation law in other jurisdictions that a question, ‘however embarrassing or unpleasant to its subject, is not accusation.’”

The four questions stemmed from a report by a Monterey County Grand Jury that examined, “Monterey County’s unforced rooster keeping ordinance.” I shall now re-ask those questions, and this time I will show the parts of the Grand Jury report from which they originated.

My first two questions were, “Mr. Ramirez, why did your department create impediments to the Monterey County Rooster keeping ordinance?” And, “What was the purpose of obstructing that ordinance?"

The Grand Jury stated that the enforcement of the rooster keeping ordinance failed for three main reasons. The second reason given was, “The hindrance to implementation and enforcement created by a process developed by the Environmental Health Bureau…”

The report also states:

“Staff within the Environmental Health Bureau instructed ACS [Animal Control Services] to not enforce The Ordinance.”

“After the passage of The Ordinance, Environmental Health created a multi-step process for implementation and enforcement that does not align with the ordinance that was passed by the BoS [Board of Supervisors] on December 16, 2014.”

“The Ordinance gave a definitive timeline of 31 days from its adoption to become effective and 180 days to be fully implemented. The Environmental Health Bureau created a one-year ‘soft rollout’ before fully implementing or enforcing it. At the end of the soft roll out year it was still not fully implemented and four years later, the Ordinance is still not being implanted or enforced.”

“After the soft rollout, the Environmental Health Bureau still would not allow ACO’s to enforce the law by issuing citations for violations of illegal rooster keeping."

My last two questions were, “Do you have any connection whatsoever to any illegal rooster keeping operation?” And, “Do you have any connection whatsoever to cockfighting?”

These questions originated in part from the above statements showing how your bureau both created a process that kept The Ordinance from being enforced and also intervened to stop Animal Control from doing their job. However, it was a revelation about the author of The Ordinance that raised serious concerns.

The author is described as being the following:

"Environmental Health was tasked with writing the ordinance without having the necessary qualifications and expertise in animal welfare, domestic or livestock. The author’s background is in hazardous waste management."

As you are the Director of the Environmental Health Bureau, and according to this article, you, “...spent 15 years as a hazardous materials specialist,” it appears that you may be the author in question. It was, however, the next line from the above paragraph from the report that was truly disturbing:

"The author used an individual from a known local illegal rooster keeping operation as the resource for writing The Ordinance.”

That truly stunning revelation by the Grand Jury alone was enough to justify my email to you. The only real question remaining is, why hasn’t this been investigated by both the county and district attorney?

That is another reason why I am glad you included your counsel and the DA on your response, for it allows me the opportunity to pose that question to them, as well as the Monterey County Board of Supervisors who I have also included on this email.

Mr. Ramirez, the second line in your email to me stated, "Unfortunately, I have no intent in responding to your email with unsubstantiated comments or inferences that you make.” While that is a confusing and not very logical sentence, I agree that it was unfortunate that you chose not to respond to legitimate questions and instead make a veiled threat. That you would do so in your position as the Director of a county agency and from your official email should alarm county officials, as any counter-lawsuit I may choose to file would very much impact Monterey County.

As what you sent is a public record, I intend to send it, along with my response, to local media. I shall also use it for a forthcoming video calling on the Board of Supervisors to implement the important recommendations made by the Grand Jury, that would rectify the enforcement of The Ordinance.

One last note from the Grand Jury report. The report states: "The Ordinance was originally created to address the issue of environmental damage caused by roosters and the illegal activity that typically accompanies rooster keeping. This includes animal cruelty, gang activities, organized crime, prostitution, illegal drug activity and excessive traffic.”

Considering how serious this is, why the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney have not already acted is unfathomable. Five years is far too long a time to allow these illegal acts to go unpunished. It is our hope that they will finally make things right in Monterey County.

Sincerely,

Steve Hindi
President, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK)