WESTBROOK – Uncertainties remain whether Tanya Marocco will continue to serve as the town’s animal control officer.
Marocco, who has an annual salary of $15,000, was suspended with pay on Dec. 20 after she was arrested on a charge of cruelty to animals from a warrant executed by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.
Bishop said the decision to suspend Marocco was made since the arrest was related to her responsibilities as animal control officer.
On Jan. 3, the Board of Selectmen appointed Sandy Bannon-Rankin to be the town’s new interim part-time animal control officer at $16.50 an hour.
Bannon-Rankin is currently the part-time animal control officer in Old Saybrook and is able to contact a Westbrook Resident State Trooper or the Town of Killingworth for backup.
Bishop said several options regarding Marocco’s future were discussed during an executive session at the Jan. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting.
While confirming her suspension will not be indefinite, Bishop said no action was taken during that executive session.
Selectmen are expected to take action on the matter no later than Jan. 31, which is two weeks from the date of that meeting.
Bishop was unable to discuss the options since it was a personnel matter discussed during executive session.
“When you deal with personnel issues, you look at the employee’s service, accomplishments, difficulties they had, what type of employee they were, and it goes without saying that it’s more than just years of service,” Bishop said.
Sometimes disciplinary action is considered by employers when the employee has a brush with the law but Bishop explained that the town makes personnel decisions on appointed employees on a case-by-case basis.
Elected town officials cannot be forced to step down, for example, former First Selectman John Raffa was arrested twice during his tenure for charges directly related to his capacity as the town’s chief elected official.
Despite those charges, Raffa refused to step down explaining he was innocent until proven guilty.
He tragically died of cancer on May 24, 2007 while awaiting trial.
Bishop said that it’s important that the town’s decision regarding Marocco not be affected by outside forces.
“We tried not to let what’s going on in the courts affect our decision,” alluding to the past and future court dates scheduled for Marocco at Middlesex Superior Court.
Marocco is scheduled to appear in court regarding the matter on Mar. 10 at Middlesex Superior Court and has not yet entered a plea.
Bishop said since the arrest, he has not read Marocco’s arrest affidavit or been in contact with Department of Agriculture personnel.
The misdemeanor charge of one count of cruelty to animals means that if Marocco is found guilty, she could face a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Supervisor Maureen Griffin claims if the town fails to remove Marocco if she is found guilty, the state department could initiate the process.
Until a decision is made by the Westbrook Board of Selectmen, the town will continue to have two animal control officers on their payroll.
Bishop said the extra cost could be funded by underutilized funds in the animal control department budget from other line items.
However, if the animal control department budget is exhausted, it might be necessary to appropriate money out of the town’s unallocated fund balance.