Where Do We Go From Here?
An Editorial Opinion
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on May 7, 2018
I have been flooded with emails, private messages on Facebook, and phone calls since I published my first investigative article on April 29, 2018 about Attorney Angie Ingram and the Birmingham, Alabama-based dog rescue group that “saved” Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at an auction in Wheaton, Missouri on November 22, 2014. For more than three years, this “rescue” operation has placed a dark cloud over the dedicated and ethical rescue efforts of other organizations and individuals in the animal rescue community across America.
In Birmingham, Angie Ingram’s Wheaton, Missouri “rescue” operation has turned into a full-blown scandal. Requests for transparency and accountability have been met with (a) unacceptable forms of protectionism, (b) bullying by the “rescuers”, and (c) Ingram’s successful use of Alabama’s court system as a weapon for punishing well-meaning “whistleblowers.”
Decision-makers in Angie Ingram’s group have evolved into administrative tyrants who wielded power with a dictatorial grip. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society officials and news reporters have been willing accomplices to the conduct that has created this scandal. Federal and state law enforcement officials have turned a blind eye to it.
In light of this disturbing reality, the burning question among my readers is this: Who are the “whistleblowers” or former GBHS employees able to go to with their information of shady dealing and financial improprieties?
Surveying the Law Enforcement Landscape
Sadly, there is nobody in Alabama’s law enforcement community at the moment who cares enough about this Cavalier rescue scandal to help us solve the ethics and accountability problems that have bubbled up to the surface.
Jay E. Town, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama (which includes Birmingham), and Lloyd Peeples, his trusted First Assistant U.S. Attorney, hold the power to stop these abuses but will not do so because this scandal involves some of the most influential names in Alabama’s animal advocacy community. Town has federal jurisdiction over offenses involving wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, bid rigging while engaging in interstate commerce, and conspiracy to commit these offenses.
Town takes his orders from U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). Town campaigned for Shelby’s re-election in 2016 and was rewarded after the election with a political appointment to the U.S. Attorney’s job. Prior to his appointment, Town was an assistant district attorney in Huntsville, Alabama. Lloyd Peeples is Town’s handpicked consigliere in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is responsible for using the U.S. Attorney's Office to mete out political favoritism or punishment at the behest of Town (and Shelby).
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has the power to address this problem, but he is too busy running for a full term in office in the June 5, 2018 Republican Primary election. Marshall was appointed to the Attorney General's position by former Alabama governor Robert Bentley in February 2017 while Bentley was under a state criminal investigation. Bentley viewed Marshall as weak and inexperienced in prosecuting white-collar crimes. In April 2017, Bentley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor ethics charges in a "sweetheart" no-jail-time plea deal and resigned office.
Marshall is also the “darling” of the corporate community, which is bankrolling his campaign.
Marshall’s campaign to date has focused on a platform of protecting stone cold Civil War era monuments of Confederate soldiers, horses, and dogs. He has shown little interest in improving the lives and welfare of today’s Alabama citizens and their dogs.
All Hope is Not Lost
If we want to change the status quo, we must do it ourselves. We are the agents of positive change we have been waiting for. We have the power to install a new Alabama Attorney General who can help us usher in the ethics protocols and transparency we need for animal rescue organizations based in Alabama.
As a longtime independent voter, I do not endorse political candidates or serve as their advocate (on a paid or unpaid basis). However, I am making a rare public exception to this self-imposed rule because the cause of justice requires it and I have heard your plea for help.
Alice Martin is running against Steve Marshall in the Republican Primary. The candidate who is elected as the Republican Party’s nominee for AG will likely be sworn-in as Alabama’s next Attorney General in January. As I explained in my March 14, 2017 “Open Letter to Alice Martin" and in my March 19, 2017 article titled, “Why I Respect Alice Martin,” Alice Martin is the only prosecutor running for Attorney General who is capable, committed, and qualified to lead us in this ethics reform fight. Ms. Martin is a big-time dog lover – she owns and cares for eleven dogs. She is one of the two best prosecutors I have known in my 45-year legal career. She is a tenacious advocate for ethics in government and in non-profit organizations. She is fair-minded and objective in her approach to law enforcement. She is “unbought” and “unbossed.” In short, Alice Martin is the “real deal.”
In contrast, Ms. Martin’s opponents are generally regarded as political hacks who “tote” the water of the state’s most powerful political bosses. These candidates (both Democrats and Republicans) represent more of the same protectionism and “good ole boy/girl” privileges that created the Birmingham Cavalier “rescue” scandal.
Ushering in Positive Change
We have the power to usher in positive change in the animal rescue community. It’s called “people power.”
The Birmingham-area Cavalier “rescuers” raised $268,000.00 in solicited GoFundMe donations in 10 days. We now know what they did with this donor money and the Cavaliers that were “rescued” at the Missouri auction.
We should ban together and work very hard to get Alice Martin elected as Alabama’s next Attorney General.
Because Angie Ingram and her Cavalier “rescue” group were able to raise $268,000.00 in 10 days, we should be able to accomplish the same result for Alice Martin’s campaign. Ingram's group was “saving” Cavaliers; we are promoting ethical standards in the animal rescue community. A donation to Ms. Martin’s campaign is a vital tool in the fight for ethics protocols in the animal advocacy movement.
Next, we must mobilize voters for the June 5, 2018 Primary Elections in Alabama and encourage them to vote for Alice Martin for Attorney General. Please contact Ms. Martin’s campaign directly and volunteer to work on getting out our message across Alabama and the nation.
Finally, we must work with Alice Martin after she is elected as Attorney General to draft and pass the best ethics protocols and “whistleblower” protection legislation for the animal rescue community. This is a collaborative effort and will require input from all concerned parties.
In closing, the problem has been clearly defined in my investigative articles. One of the many solutions for solving this problem rests with our strong participation in next month’s election for Alabama Attorney General. We have waited more than three years for positive change. Let’s make it happen next month.
PHOTO: Alice Martin, a highly qualified, proven prosecutor and leader in the ethics reform movement.