A former employee of the Gwinnett animal shelter employee has filed a whistleblower suit against the county, claiming she was fired as retaliation for exposing “the unnecessary killing of animals” and the “abuse of euthanasia” at the facility.
Former rescue coordinator Delana Funderburk first threatened to sue the shelter and the Gwinnett County Police Department (which oversaw shelter operations at the time of Funderburk’s employment but no longer does) last May, about three months after her firing. She filed the lawsuit last week in Gwinnett County Superior Court.
More animal shelter coverage from subscriber site myAJC.com: Gwinnett shelter probe finds no evidence of false euthanizations
In the 11-page document filed under the Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act, Funderburk makes many of the same accusation she did last summer. She and attorney Mike Puglise argue that she was fired for speaking up about what she considered to be neglect and an unwillingness by supervisors to do everything possible to save animals at the shelter.
Funderburk claims she was punished because she spoke up when animals she had arranged to be rescued, adopted or otherwise worked with were euthanized instead.
“They wanted to take the easy way out, which is in two minutes you can euthanize an animal, instead of spending hours working with them,” Funderburk told Channel 2 Action News this week.
Then-Gwinnett shelter manager Curt Harrell — who was fined last year for euthanizing a court-protected dog — left the county in October, and the county’s community services department now oversees the shelter instead of the police department.
A spokesman for the county declined Tuesday to comment on Funderburk’s suit, citing the county’s policy of not commenting on active litigation.
Funderburk’s claims were refuted, however, in the same internal investigation that county officials say led to her firing. The months-long investigation found no wrongdoing or violation of policy at the shelter and argued that its euthanization numbers, which have dramatically declined in recent years, were legitimate.
The probe also claimed that Funderburk lied about conspiring with volunteers and other animal advocates to organize a protest at a Board of Commissioners meeting while Harrell and the shelter’s assistant manager were out of town. Documents list her official causes of termination as “intentionally providing false information” and a failure to “support the [police] department and all members thereof.”
Funderburk’s lawsuit asks for a jury trial and for unspecified compensation.