March 18, 2015

Two Residents Disagree With the Decision To Dismiss Animal Control Officer Johnson

To the Editor:

Longtime Princeton residents, my husband and I have called upon Mark Johnson a number of times and he has always come through for us — a dead fawn on the yard, baby raccoons in the chimney, once bats in the attic, another time a bat in our office. Other town residents I know have had similar positive experiences. I now learn to my dismay that, according The Town Topics, “Mark Johnson Is No Longer Town’s Animal Control Officer” [page one, March 11].

How could this happen? It turns out that our relatively new Town Administrator Marc Dashield has offered Mr. Johnson, the animal control officer for Princeton for more than two decades, a separation agreement. Why?

Is it possible that Mr. Johnson is being punished for doing his job, implementing a controversial deer control program that nonetheless has the support of the majority of Princeton residents? What in fact caused this ridiculous forced departure?

It turns out that very shortly before Mr. Johnson’s employment problems began he gave two tickets for sabotaging Princeton’s deer control program to Mr. Edward Linky, an individual who appears to be well-connected to both the Princeton government and Mr. Johnson’s immediate employers in the Princeton government.

I think Mr. Johnson is owed an apology and immediate reinstatement. His forced departure is an insult to him and an affront to the many Princeton residents who have been grateful for his professional help over many years.

From my personal point of view, Mr. Johnson’s arranged departure is potentially expensive to Princeton taxpayers as well. Who is now overseeing to the deer control program? Where will Princeton find someone as competent and well trained and experienced as Mr. Johnson? How expensive would the search be? What competent person with options would be willing to work for a city that lets years of good service be ignored?

If it has not already been done by the time this letter is published, I recommend that those Princeton government employees involved in Mr. Johnson’s departure reinstate him and write him letters of apology.

If Mr. Edward Linky has not already done so, I recommend that he apologize to animal control officer Mark Johnson for having caused Mr. Johnson embarrassment and an unpleasant and inappropriate review process.

I recommend that the Princeton Council take up the question of whether any improper pressure was applied in securing Mr. Johnson’s ridiculous, harmful, and costly departure.

Finally, I recommend that the deer bait station near Mr. Linky’s property be moved. There is no point in continuing to annoy a person who seems to anger easily and apparently has, from my point of view, excessive and inappropriate influence on Princeton government personnel decisions.

Dawn Day

Meadowbrook Drive

To the Editor;

Those of us who have lived in Princeton for many years and come to know Mark Johnson even slightly have been impressed with his knowledge and handling of all the wild animals not only in Princeton but in New Jersey and how to deal with them.

Mark grew up travelling with his father and learning about his job from an early age. His father was an Animal Control Officer too.

Yes, if you were caught walking a dog off leash or not having a bag in your pocket he would give you a warning and you certainly listened to him. That was his job.

If you had a difficult marauder to deal with, Mark would lend a “Have-a-Heart” trap, set it, and then collect it later.

Any Princeton Animal Control Officer has a difficult job in our town. He will not only deal with bear, fox, coyote, skunk, stray animals, etc., but with citizens too. Some of us are more difficult to deal with than the animals he is so expert with. During his long tenure Mark has been able to balance this act. We should not be dismissing such a professional man for doing his job as he thinks best.

Could this have become a political problem decided with newcomers not familiar with our needs? I hope not.

Lindy Eiref

Dodds Lane