MOUNT VERNON — Jim St. Clair is back on the job today. Not as the county dog warden but as the lead animal control officer/humane officer.
St. Clair resigned Thursday as the dog warden after being placed on paid administrative leave on Dec. 13, while the county investigated allegations made against him by private individuals.
Chip McConville, assistant Knox County prosecutor, remains quiet regarding the root of the allegations but confirmed the commissioners had concerns with St. Clair’s management style and managerial capabilities.
“It would not be fair,” McConville said when asked to elaborate on the allegations. “It was investigated and found to have no substance.”
McConville explained the change in leadership as a restructuring of the Knox County Animal Shelter and utilizing skills where they are most beneficial.
In a letter to the commissioners, St. Clair said he can better serve the commissioners, the community and the animals in a different role.
“By relinquishing a more administrative position as the dog warden, and accepting the position as the Lead Animal Control Officer/Humane Officer, I feel this will allow me to better pursue my passion of being more hands-on with the animals and people of Knox County,” St. Clair wrote.
He continued to say that he felt the administrative responsibilities of the job “limited the time I was able to devote to some of these animals and the assistance a few of them need.”
St. Clair spoke with the News about the administrative leave and his change in duties at the animal shelter. Although he was surprised by the allegations, he said he felt the commissioners did the right thing by investigating.
“I think I would have done the same thing,” St. Clair said.
He is excited to be back to work today and be hands-on in working with people and dogs. His passion for caring for animals has always been a driving force in his position as dog warden but it often took a back seat to the paperwork and day-to-day operational responsibilities of the position.
“The administrative work takes so much of your time. I just did not have time to do administrative duties and work with the public and dogs,” St. Clair said.
As the lead humane officer, St. Clair will be responsible for investigating animal cruelty cases. As dog warden, he was the only shelter employee who could file criminal charges and keeping this as part of his new job description will allow him to investigate and determine charges. Previously there was a shelter employee who would investigate and then St. Clair would file the charges. This, he said, will lighten the load of the new dog warden.
St. Clair spoke of the tight-knit community at the animal shelter which includes both employees and volunteers. It is that collaborative effort, he said, that makes the shelter a success.
“The shelter is a wonderful place for dogs,” he said. “This is not a 1950s dog pound — the dogs here have a chance. It wasn’t all by me by any means, it was every employee, every volunteer. I won’t take credit for anything — it was all of us working together.”
St. Clair said he was not apprehensive about returning to work today because he feels whoever made the allegations against him believed they were doing the right thing.
“I always did the best job I thought I could do,” he said. “I always took people and their feelings into account. I gave 100 percent to both people and dogs.”
Although he remained rather “isolated” during the investigation, St. Clair said he was grateful for all the support he was given.
Larry Williams will remain as interim dog warden while the commissioners conduct a search for a replacement. Williams, however, is leaving the county’s employ at the end of January.
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