Preston County Animal Shelter supporters went to the Preston County Commission meeting Monday night to support Courtney Austin who was suspended from the shelter late last week.
The commission immediately went into an executive meeting with Austin and her attorney to discuss the matter. This gave people who support Austin a chance to show it by holding their signs stating things like, "It's all about the animals."
Once the executive meeting was finished the commission announced their choice to fire Austin for insubordination.
"We had some repeated simple requests that just weren't met and they finally came to a head whenever some information started going around different social media sites that just quite frankly wasn't true," said Craig Jennings, the President of the County Commission.
The request was for the county commission to be given administrator access to the shelter Facebook page. The page was used to solicit volunteers and financial support from the public, and advertise the animals up for adoption. In January, Austin posted stating the pipes froze and the shelter was left without water.
Austin's supporters, including her mother, disagree with the commission's decision and Jennings statement that, "There was never a time the shelter had no heat or water."
Jennings stated that he thought they were all on the same page at last Monday's meeting.
"The thing that's so surprising is that there were several people testifying that they had come from other areas to pick up areas numerous times to pick up animals and it was so cold in there that they could see their breath," said Daleen Berry, Austin's mother.
Numerous rescue groups from around the area spoke on Austin's behalf. The commission made their decision before hearing these statements. They do not need to hear the public's opinion on personnel matters.
Austin's attorney, Matthew H. Nelson from Farmer, Cline and Campbell Law Offices, said he is going to discuss the matter with his client.
"We're surprised by the decision of the county commission," said Nelson. "We feel it was a result that could have been avoided with a little bit of reasonableness but we will discuss our options and proceed accordingly."
One thing both sides do agree on is the safety of the animals and the volunteers continuing to show their support.
"According to the commission people have said they are going to withhold their support, they're not going to help with transport, they're not going to help with adoption," said Berry. "We don't want that to happen, Courtney, that's the last thing that Courtney wants to happen. Courtney wants the animals to be taken care of whether she's there or not and so we hope people will step up to the plate."
"We've had a lot of great volunteers who I hope continue to support us who have been up there to help us with the day to day chores with the shelter," said Jennings.
The Preston County Commission said that there are other workers at the shelter taking care of the animals. They will post the job later and stand by their decision to fire Austin.