Houston mayor pushes to reorganize city's animal control

Rindi White

WASILLA -- Houston Mayor Roger Purcell said Thursday he has hired Bill Settle, a former police officer, to serve as the city's community service officer and head an effort to reorganize the city animal control department.

Settle has a law-enforcement background that includes work in different areas of Alaska.

He worked as a policeman in Galena, Sand Point and King Cove and was a sergeant at Skagway for nine years in the 1990s. Most recently he was a detective in the city of Hermiston, Ore. Purcell said Settle has been retired for six years.

Purcell said he hired Settle to develop new policies for the city animal control department. Settle will work with the animal control board, which is still being formed.

Animal control issues came to the forefront in the city earlier this month when a city police officer, Sgt. Charlie Seidl, shot eight animals at the shelter, some of which had been living there for months. Conditions at the shelter had deteriorated to the point that a former city employee called it "unfit for animals or the public."

The shooting caused controversy: Seidl said Purcell ordered him to take the action but Purcell said he never issued such an order. In the fall-out, Dennis Lords, the city's chief animal control officer, was fired, and a part-time city employee who worked at the shelter was let go. Seidl was given a public performance review and the City Council voted narrowly not to terminate him. Seidl has since been on leave; Purcell said the leave was to allow the city attorney time to investigate statements Seidl made during the performance review.

Purcell said he, the city attorney and Seidl will meet this week to discuss the attorney's findings.

A related application filed by 13 city residents on Feb. 9 seeking to recall Purcell also remains up in the air. The application for recall stated Purcell should be recalled for misconduct and incompetence or failure to perform prescribed duties.

City Clerk Steven Cunningham is tasked with reviewing the application and deciding whether the grounds for recall meet the requirements set out in state law.

He asked city lawyer Richard Payne to assist in making that determination.

Cunningham on Thursday said he is still weighing the decision and didn't have an estimated date by which he would decide.

"It's my hope that it doesn't sit on my desk long," Cunningham said.

Find Rindi White online at adn.com/contact/rwhite or call 352-6709.