It's a doggone shame.
A true measure of a government lies in how it wields its immense power over those it governs.
Often the more insidious abuses of that power are not the blatantly obvious cases. Those generally generate huge public outcry and reform efforts.
The more troubling abuses are the not so visible ones, or the ones in which meaningful redress is often thwarted by the sheer weight and manipulative nature of the government's bureaucracy.
Recently, I wrote a column about the town of Auburn taking ownership of Willard Cheng's dog; he was picked up for allegedly stealing merchandise from Macy's. Mr. Cheng, who lives out of state, raised issues about his case that seemed troubling.
Specifically, he wanted to know whether the town had used its authority to aid the transfer of his dog's ownership to a police officer who had coveted the dog from the moment Mr. Cheng was arrested.
At the time of his apprehension, Mr. Cheng had in his possession a 9-month-old border collie named Abby. The Auburn police officer transporting him to court sought to buy the dog, Mr. Cheng said. He told the officer Abby was not for sale. While he was at the county jail, a lawyer he ended up not retaining, Michael Erlich, relayed a message from the police officer reiterating the officer's interest in buying Abby.
He again said his dog was not for sale, and Auburn Town Manager Julie Jacobson acknowledged that Mr. Erlich shared with the town "his understanding'' that Mr. Cheng was not interested in selling his dog.
Mr. Cheng raised bail some two weeks after his arrest, but the town had already given his dog to a foster family, who had the right of first refusal in any adoption process. Despite Mr. Cheng's town-aided outreach to this foster family, his offer to pay for Abby's upkeep, the adoption expenses and a replacement puppy was rejected.
Thursday, Board of Selectmen Chairman Doreen Goodrich said Abby is still town property, because the adoption process has not yet been completed. This would mean, it seems, that the foster family's rejection of Mr. Cheng's offer to reclaim his dog was not theirs to make. If the town still owns Abby, why not return the dog to its owner?
In a story in Thursday Telegram & Gazette, Ms. Jacobson appeared to make the case that Abby was taken away from Mr. Cheng because he was not a worthy owner.
In the story, based on comments she shared at a selectman's meeting, Ms. Jacobson played up the felony charges that have been filed against Mr. Cheng. She played up an alleged story of neglect, saying that the dog was found soaked in urine.
"The animal was found in deplorable conditions and has been given a second chance,'' she said.
Yet, Ms. Jacobson told me previously that neglect was not a reason the dog was taken away from Mr. Cheng. Indeed, in an email to the town Sunday appealing for Abby's return, Mr. Cheng said it was during Abby's detention at the police station that she was subjected to neglect.
"They left her in the garage of the police station from the time I was brought to the jail and the time the animal control officials picked her up. My guess would be a minimum of 3 hours,'' he wrote.
But all of this doesn't matter. Neither Ms. Jacobson nor the board seems the least bit concerned about the possible existence of conflict of interest in this case. As far as they are concerned, Mr. Cheng, although he hasn't yet seen his day in court, is a felon who doesn't deserve a turn of basic human consideration.
These are the kind of behaviors by a government that, like parasites, slowly but steadily eat away at its legitimacy.
Contact Clive McFarlane via email at email@example.com.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Feb 27, 2015|
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