Director of Maricopa County animal shelter on leave over toxic environment allegations

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -The Arizona family has learned that the director of the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Shelter is on leave. Although the county won’t say exactly why former employees say there is a toxic work environment.

A former worker tells us that she created a petition calling for housing reform which now has nearly 25,000 signatures. She says the toxic work environment at the shelter leads to high turnover, which creates inadequate animal care. “It’s been a toxic work environment for many years, including when I volunteered there,” said Lorena Bader, a former volunteer.

Maricopa County has placed Animal Care and Control Center Director Michael Mendel on administrative leave.

“Everyone is very scared to speak up,” says Bader, who claims she was fired without cause. Saying that the workplace at the shelter has a history of being toxic. “They won’t necessarily fire you for that. [speaking up]but they will target you.

Mendel became manager in March this year, appointed to the post by Deputy County Manager Valerie Beckett.

“I don’t know. It was chaos. It was chaos. It was the worst experience of my life,” said Molly Judd, who stepped down earlier this year as director of East Shelter. She says Beckett oversees many departments in the county and is the root problem. “She thinks it’s like any other government organization. You just put in a few figureheads and the rest will follow. But it’s not it’s pet boarding. You really need to know what you’re doing to run this place,” Judd said.

Judd says she was bullied at work by Mendell and Beckett who pushed her over the edge. “I needed to quit for my mental health. They made me wonder who I was as a person,” Judd added.

She says she hopes the county makes serious and quick changes. “They don’t have leaders who are animal advocates and understand animal welfare. And until that changes, nothing will change,” Judd said.

We have contacted the shelter to comment on these allegations. They said in part: “Mendel is on leave and out of the office. At this time, a return date is unknown.

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