Since July, Save Our Seabirds has had five unannounced inspections, in addition to a mold inspection, after the Sarasota City Commission directed city staff to investigate allegations former volunteers and staffers leveled.
But the inspections didn’t yield any smoking guns.
“No issues have been noted in any of the inspection reports and testing, and none of the accusations have been founded,” said Mary Tucker, purchasing manager for the city of Sarasota, during the Sept. 3 commission meeting.
City staff had reported that the SOS facility, which is located on a city-owned parcel on City Island, was clean and free of rats and dead birds during a June 20 unannounced inspection.
But past volunteers and employees claimed otherwise during the July commission meeting. They told the commission that they had seen rats kill or maim birds, that the facility was inadequate and that black mold covered parts of the ceiling.
The allegations prompted the commission to ask city staff to investigate further and gather all reports about the facility from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office from the past five years and also send code enforcement to inspect the property.
FWC made an unannounced inspection of the facility two days after the July meeting and determined the facility to be “in overall good condition with all pools clean, adequate perching and enclosures safe for the birds” and that the records and record-keeping system at the facility has “vastly improved” since a previous inspection conducted April 27, 2011.
The only discrepancy noted in the report was the need for additional shelter for some larger birds during heavy rains.
Fahey Pest Management found no active rodent activity on the property in July.
City staff also asked veterinarian Dr. Jack Landess to examine the birds and habitats. Landess wrote in a letter:
“The animal care, expertise, attractiveness and future planning will make this one of Sarasotas (sic) star animal attractions to tourists, locals and students and therefore an asset to the community.”
SOS CEO David Pilston addressed the commission at last week’s meeting.
“We appreciate the scrutiny that we’ve been under for the past few months. We’re very proud with what we do; we take our work very seriously; we’re very proud of our staff,” he said.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell had words of praise for the organization.
“You came here under some interesting situations, where people were accusing you of various sundry things,” she said. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you have surely passed the test.”
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]ourobserver.com.