Bertie objects to PETA subpoena

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

WINDSOR – Bertie County has filed a written objection in regards to a subpoena served, via certified mail, by an attorney representing PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Meanwhile, county officials insist that PETA is more than welcomed to come to Windsor and retrieve copies of any open public records they so desire.

The subpoena requested 17 different documents from Bertie County. Some of those documents dated back as far as Jan. 1, 2000.

On Friday, Windsor attorney Lloyd Smith, who serves as legal counsel for Bertie County government, filed an objection to the subpoena.

He was instructed to do so by the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their March 2 meeting.

“There’s nothing here we’re trying to hide,” Smith told the Commissioners at last Thursday night’s meeting. “These are public records. In as much, PETA, or anyone else for that matter, can come to Windsor, research the records and make copies of what they are seeking.”

At that meeting, the Commissioners learned that Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb had been served a subpoena, by certified mail, on Feb. 23. That legal maneuver requested all documents pertaining to PETA’s involvement with the county over the five years prior to Bertie ending that association on June 20, 2005. The request even included all correspondence between PETA and Bertie County during that time frame.

According to the subpoena, Lamb was required to present the documents to the Hertford County Courthouse yesterday (Monday).

“It was a very broad request,” Lamb said.

It was in that same Hertford County Courthouse where Smith filed the objection on Friday. He said the objection was based on the grounds that the request was unreasonable as well as not allowing Bertie officials adequate time to prepare the documents.

“Most of what they requested is not relevant to the court case,” Smith said in reference to the June 15, 2005 arrests in Ahoskie of two PETA employees who stand charged with illegally euthanizing 31 animals, the majority of which were picked-up earlier that day from the Bertie County Animal Shelter.

Smith continued, “A portion of their request asked for the total number of dogs that had been euthanized since 2000 at the Bertie shelter. How is that relevant to the case against the two PETA employees? What the subpoena requested would prove burdensome to Bertie County to spend time and money on something PETA could do themselves just by coming to the Bertie Courthouse.”

Lamb said he would have to pull county government staff away from serving the needs of Bertie County citizens in order to meet this request.

“The man-hours we would have to obligate are enormous based upon the broadness of the request,” Lamb noted. “Not only are the records they’re requesting here in the courthouse, but over at the Sheriff’s Office as well since that office oversees Animal Control. This would prove to be a very time consuming process.”

As far as filing an objection, Lamb said he felt the judge would be able to easily see that the material PETA was requesting was not pertinent to the criminal proceedings.

Prior to those June, 2005 arrests, Bertie County had an agreement with PETA to pick-up unclaimed animals housed at the county’s shelter. One week after the arrests, the Bertie Board of Commissioners relieved PETA of their responsibility as it pertains to dogs and cats in Bertie County.