What amounts to a media circus in Boulder City packed into its tiny City Council chambers Tuesday as the routine churn of city business grappled with an elephant in the room.
The room was standing room only, and the elephant was a dark revelation that came to light last week: Boulder City police had found evidence that its former head of animal control had been needlessly killing animals for years — but decided not to press the criminal case and instead let her retire.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Dec. 1 that Chief of Police Administration Bill Conger decided not to arrest Mary Jo Frazier because she had resigned and doing so would only “drag this thing through the mud.”
But under public pressure, the city reversed course and announced on Dec. 3 that it would pursue criminal charges because of “public involvement.”
In a statement released by the city, officials said it “believes the events at the Animal Shelter were inexcusable.”
Those beliefs is why Conger relieved Frazier of her duties and she retired within two days, the statement reads, adding that public involvement “caused us to re-evaluate that position” and notify Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson that “felony and gross misdemeanor charges will be submitted to his office for full evaluation,” as well as city misdemeanors submitted to the city prosecutor.
Tuesday night was the second protest on the matter. Roughly 20 people protested outside City Hall in advance of the meeting; a few held signs. One such sign read: “We are the voice for the animal victims!”
On Dec. 3, before the city announced it would pursue criminal charges, about 20 people gathered outside the Boulder City Police Department to protest the handling of Frazier’s resignation as well as the decision not to further the department’s investigation.
Mark Manendo, a member of the Nevada Senate representing District 21, was also at the rally, saying Frazier’s actions were “a cowardly act.” Manendo addressed the crowd before walking into the police department to speak with Conger. He was met by a spokeswoman who said Conger was would not be making a statement that day.
Tuesday’s high-profile council meeting came with increased security. Everyone was subjected to bag checks and a security sweep. There was even a designated media section. An unusual occurrence in the 15,000-population city.
Before the meeting started Mayor Rod Woodbury cleared his throat and explained that while most were there to talk about the recent scandal, they’d have to wait until the meeting ended.
So they waited. Six people spoke to the City Council about the issue.
Margaret Hance, whose dog Bo was killed in 2011 by Frazier, expressed her frustration that she tried everything she could to get Frazier fired. At the time, city officials admitted Frazier killed Hance’s dog against city code, but blamed Hance for not having a collar on her dog.
“Ex-chief Finn continues to make it an issue about a collar. It is not about a collar. It is about a dog. A family dog,” Hance said of former police chief Thomas Finn. “Think about what we’ve all gone through because of this woman.”
‘Not a scapegoat’
Finn issued a press release that contained information about that incident. Finn explained that the dog was reportedly lying in the street, with blood coming from its nose and mouth, when he was found. Finn said after 30 minutes and “believing the dog was suffering and having difficulty breathing,” Frazier made the decision to end his suffering and euthanize Bo.
Finn also chastised the way these events had been handled, especially in relation to his time as police chief.
“It is deceitful and cowardly for those same city officials to now cast blame on me when evidence of wrongdoing against Ms. Frazier did not exist during my tenure as chief of police,” Finn said. “I will not remain silent and serve as a scapegoat for Boulder City officials who cower and tremble in their offices and refuse to take full responsibility for their failure to do the right thing.”
At the council meeting, two others came forward and told stories of how Frazier had killed their pets, and attorney Stephen Stubbs spoke on behalf of three people who alleged Frazier had killed their pets, too. He and others praised the city for changing course and sending the case to the Clark County district attorney. One woman did speak out to say that she knew Frazier to be kind at one point and not the woman described in recent reports.
“I don’t think there are enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how everyone feels about this,” Woodbury said after the passionate pleas from the public that Fraizer be held accountable.
The mayor acknowledged that there were obstacles the city would have to overcome, including extradition laws regarding misdemeanors as well as how high on the priority list this matter would be for the district attorney. However, Woodbury encouraged the public to stay involved in the matter as it works its way through the legal process.
Councilman Duncan McCoy praised Conger and City Manager Dave Fraser for having the “guts” to revisit the case and send it to the district attorney’s office.
Councilman Cam Walker encouraged the public to be more involved and said when he looked through his emails from when Hance’s dog Bo was killed, he could only find one.
Seth Snyder, who said he attended because he believes Frazier had stolen his cat, said he was too emotional about the matter to speak, but was glad to hear others’ stories. He also said he was reassured that elected officials were interested in seeing Frazier brought to justice.
For some, the elected officials’ statements felt hollow.
“No one contacts them for good reason,” said Boulder City resident Ray Turner. “They don’t listen.”
Boulder City resident Sharon Resnikoff said that when residents do speak out they tend to not be taken seriously, and in the small town politics speaking out can be a risk.
“Why did it take public outcry and the media getting involved to press charges against her?” she asked after the meeting. “That’s the bottom line.”
Detective David Olson’s investigation found that since 2006 Frazier had killed almost half the animals that came to the shelter. Looking at one year, he’d determined she had killed 91 in violation of city code.
Frazier resigned after the investigation concluded and just as a personnel investigation into her handling of shelter money was starting. The personnel matter was serious enough that Conger had placed her on administrative leave, he told the Review-Journal on Dec.1. After retiring, Frazier left the state.
Hali Bernstein Saylor and Randy Faehnrich of the Boulder City Review contributed to this story.
Contact Bethany Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes. Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter. Contact reporter Randy Faehnrich at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @RandyFaehnrich