FARMINGTON — The Farmington Regional Animals Shelter's new director will make at least $15,000 less than the shelter's current consultant, Marcy Eckhardt.

"I think it's outrageous," Councilor Mary Fischer said.

Stacie Voss will receive a salary of $70,000 when she takes over as the shelter's director in December after Eckhardt's contract expires, according to a Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs document.

The city paid Eckhardt $87,426.28, between Dec. 15, 2012, and Oct. 15, according to invoices provided in a public records request.

Fischer and others say Eckhardt was unqualified for the position, citing her lack of management skills and experience working in animal shelters. Cory Styron, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said Eckhardt was the most-qualified candidate, adding that her initial agreement was signed before he worked for the city.

Eckhardt, founder of Pro Shelter, an animal shelter consulting company in Durango, Colo., was contracted as a consultant in a May 28 city council meeting for month-by-month payments of $6,886.

But invoices dated July 6, Aug. 16 and Sept. 18 show that she earned more in over-time hours than was initially agreed. She worked an additional 265 hours from June to Aug. 31 and made an extra $11,947.50, according for the invoices for those months.

Loyd Lillywhite, veterinarian at the San Juan Veterinarian Hospital, said Eckhardt lacked the experience required to direct the shelter but convinced the city she had the qualifications.

Lillywhite has worked with the city's animal control department for at least 25 years, he said, and in the past 10 months he has watched the shelter's conditions degenerate to the worst he has ever seen. Cats are sick, he said; puppies' stomachs are infected. The morale is the lowest he has witnessed, he said. Many employees, he said, quit.

"I don't think they realized how little experience she had and how lacking she was in management skills," he said, adding, though, that she had a "good heart."

Stacie Voss
Stacie Voss

Eckhardt was not at the animal shelter Monday and she did not return multiple calls to cell phone. But she did email a written statement. In it, she justified her overtime.

The city fired the acting shelter director, Angie Arnold, in February, Eckhardt said, forcing her to work extra hours. At least 200 of the hours she did not charge for, she said.

Under her tenure, she accomplished much, she said. She installed a software system that catalogues all shelter animals; began a treatment for animals with minor illnesses; saved the city "thousands of dollars" by purchasing medicine through distributors; created a cash-management system; and, she said, pushed the three-full time spay-and-neuter staff to operate on seven more animals a day.

Eckhardt's contributions, Styron said, will benefit the welfare of the animals long after her contract expires.

But regardless of opinions of her performance, Councilor Jason Sandel said, "at the end of the day, we need to just move forward with this new director and give some general direction."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @Dan_J_Schwartz on Twitter.