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February 5, 2013

Danville animal control officer race heats up

Danville animal control issue heats up again

DANVILLE — There’s a little more bark and bite in the animal control officer’s race.

Selectman and police Officer Michelle Cooper is a candidate for the one-year position sought by former animal control officer Sheila Johannesen.

It’s the same job Cooper and fellow selectmen have asked voters to eliminate when they go to the polls in March. Residents reviewed that proposal and other warrants articles during the town’s deliberative session Saturday. The animal control article was not amended.

Johannesen has accused Cooper, a former assistant animal control officer, of opposing the elected position because she served citations to her a couple of times when Cooper’s dogs ran loose.

Johannesen said she was surprised to hear Cooper was seeking the job.

“She’s running, but she’s the one who put in on the ballot to get rid of it,” Johannesen said. “Why would one who wanted to get rid of the position be the one running for it?”

She said Cooper has a conflict of interest because she works for the police department.

“If she is on duty as a police officer, how is that going to work?” Johannesen asked. “I can’t see this not being a conflict of interest.”

But Cooper said her decision to run is not a personal attack against Johannesen.

“It has nothing do with her,” Cooper said.

Selectmen did away with the post in 2011. It was a move Johannesen, who held the job for seven years, characterized as an act of vengeance. Danville now contracts with Plaistow for animal control services; Johannesen is an animal control officer in Hampstead.

Johannesen and Selectmen’s Chairman Shawn O’Neil often clashed over the animal control budget. Cooper, who was not a selectman at the time, served as the assistant animal control officer for two years.

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