Officials with the City of Loudon are under scrutiny as the city grapples with employees’ handling of feral cats.
Amid the heated exchanges during Monday night’s city council meeting, city attorney Joe Ford resigned and the city manager Ty Ross is under temporary suspension pending city investigation – mainly due to people’s concerns over job duties and the trapping of feral cats as well as social media posts.
A group of feral cats had been trapped and taken to the local humane society by a city employee, where they were reportedly euthanized.
The cats had been fed and cared for, but were considered feral.
Cissy Chapman has had ties to the city for many years. As of late, she’s been helping the feral cat colony near her property.
“I’m pretty much the only person who goes down there every day. In two years I’ve missed one day and that’s because ice wouldn’t let me get here,” Chapman said.
Chapman and a few others say the cats have been around for 70 years.
Chapman says just recently though, that colony is now down to just a few cats. She noticed that after a couple of run-ins with Ross, the city manager, at the cat’s roaming area, the cats started disappearing.
“I went down to feed and there were 12, next day there might have been 8, Wednesday Tuesday, Wednesday there were six. Anyway, by Thursday there were two cats left.”
In a Facebook post made on Saturday, the Rainbow Promise Animal Rescue called for people to attend the city council meeting and to suggest a feral cat law be adopted “that protects them,” the post stated.
WATE 6 On Your Side sent a crew to the city council meeting.
It was a full house at the Loudon city council meeting Tuesday.
Prior to the meeting, city manager Ty Ross told WATE 6 On Your Side he planned on bringing up the cat issue and wants to create a committee to look into what can be done about the cats.
At first, Ross said he didn’t know where the cats in question hung out, but when asked again, he said it’s at an old building that the utility company now owns.
Mayor Jeff Harris said that prior to the city council meeting, the city manager’s assistant emailed the city confessing to trapping the feral cats and taking them to the humane society.
There’s also an email to city staff from the assistant where she claims full responsibility and wasn’t ordered to do it by Ross, the city manager.
Ross says he didn’t know his assistant took the feral cat matter into her own hands.
According to the mayor, she has since been reprimanded.
The city’s now-former attorney, Joe Ford, allegedly made a Facebook post regarding the feral cat issue. A council member said Monday they thought the city’s attorney’s post on Facebook showed bias on the topic.
As the city council went into an unplanned executive session mid-meeting, Ford resigned via speaker phone.
The city council talked about hiring a Knoxville lawyer to investigate the activities of city hall staff; then, shortly after, the temporary paid suspension of the city manager was approved.
“The suspension is due to employment practices, not due to animals,” the city council clarified. The paid suspension is temporary, until the investigation is completed.
The city manager will still have utility duties, but no city duties – during the paid suspension.
Chapman is heartbroken – she took care of the cats and got them ready for new homes.
“These cats had been spayed and neutered less than 3 weeks before and had been given their shots. They were checked for feline leukemia. They were even treated for ear mites.”
She acknowledged that the condemned building was city property and that it was scheduled to be demolished. She said that’s why she was working on finding the cats new homes.
A Knoxville-based firm is handling the investigation into the city’s employment activities and if the city manager or his staff broke any ordinances that led to the cats being taken away.