PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Complaints and allegations about stolen dog food, washing machines and medicines were voiced in public for the first time Monday. However, some volunteers say they have been sharing their concerns with the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the past several months.
Jonnie Barnitz says her 15-year-old son has been collecting dog food, blankets and other items for the animals at the shelter. She says when she saw shelter employees taking those items home, she started writing to the chairman.
"I was told that after my family delivered the truck load of food to the shelter two weeks ago that the minute we drove off employees went through the food and helped themselves," one e-mail read.
"The stealing continues, now donations are disappearing," reads another, dated from November. "Just when you think this place could not get any worse, it does.  is stealing blankets by the trash bags full to take home for her dogs. She just pulls up her truck to the shed and loads it up. She doesn't even hide it and they all see it."
"I find it really hard to believe that they think all the stealing and underhanded things can continue indefinitely, although they continue to steal food and supplies like it is their private stock," reads a December email. She says the former Sheriff's Office representative, who was in charge of the shelter approved the items being taken, as long as they were just donations.
Barnitz says she even brought it up recently during a volunteer meeting, and recorded the answer given by the shelter manager Darlene Clewis. The recording states:
"You've got the same people working here that have been working here for years, that didn't adhere to that policy of not helping themselves. What are you going to do to make sure they don't do it?"
"They've been talked to by the commissioners and the county manager and me."
Chairman George Brown says the county manager did discuss the new policies with the staff, which include not taking any donations home. He said he was under the impression that the donated items were being taken home with shelter employees who were keeping shelter animals at their homes because their was no room for them at the shelter, and being used for those animals.
WECT.com asked the chairman if those allegations had been shared with anyone and he said that he informed the board of commissioners and the sheriff that there were issues at the shelter, but does not remember if he specified what those concerns were. He says because of the concerns the shelter changed hands recently and is now under the control of the county manager, and no longer controlled by the sheriff's office.
The sheriff says, because no formal allegations were brought to his attention, he could not look into launching an investigation until comments were made during the public hearing.
"They didn't notify or make a police report," said Sheriff Carson Smith. "I don't know who they talked to, but apparently they had been making allegations."
Volunteers say it's not just the missing donations that need to be investigated. They say they have several concerns at the shelter, including allowing visitors to handle animals that have not been vaccinated for rabies.
The sheriff says he will look into what was said during the public hearing, and if he decides to launch an investigation he says it will be conducted by an outside agency since the shelter was under his control for about a year.
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