SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Caddo Animal Services and Mosquito Control Director Everett Harris has issued an apology for posting a photo of a newspaper clipping with disturbing symbols scrawled on it to the parish department's Facebook page Tuesday.
The clipping features dogs up for adoption in Caddo Parish, with the Star of David drawn in red ink on their faces and Nazi symbols drawn in black marker over their heads.
The image was posted just before 11 a.m. with the caption, "How to deal with the difficulties of life," and it immediately sparked numerous angry and confused comments.
"Someone has some serious explaining to do!" wrote Loraine Mason Guerrero.
"I try having a decent relationship with the shelter for the sake of the animals but a line has been drawn. This is outrageous!!!" wrote Courtney Michelle Wingate.
Within an hour, Harris added a lengthy comment to the post, identifying himself as the person responsible for it.
"I have to endure what some would call a hostile work environment from a group of people with a dated mindset. I have been called a liar, a dictator, profanity laced, scumbag, rude, and racial comments that no human should say because of a select few who want to influence, control and make decisions for this department."
In that initial explanation, Harris went on to say, "The picture that you see is one of many that I received since becoming the Director of ASMC because some take hatred too far."
The entire post was removed a short time later, and by Tuesday afternoon, Harris had posted a public apology on the ASMC Facebook page that read, in part, that the image "was accidentally uploaded and posted when I was updating ASMC's Facebook page with adoption photos. I take responsibility for my actions and admit that I made a mistake not paying attention to detail when uploading photos.
In a statement from Harris' direct supervisor, Caddo Parish Administrator Woody Wilson said, "The picture that was accidently [sic] posted on our Face Book page today was sent to Director Harris by someone from outside of the organization, which he found to be offensive as well. Director Harris intended to send the picture to me to validate his concerns that he receives a lot of what I consider to be "hate mail".
Wilson added that "Director Harris has received numerous hate mail and death threat phone calls against him from unknown and known individuals, which have been investigated the Shreveport Police Department. It is my opinion that these threats again [sic] Director Harris have gone too far and no other employees past or present had to endure this type hostel [sic] working condition brought on by enforcing the Parish ordinances and policies."
While Harris' official apology and Wilson's statement claim that the posting of the photo was in error, Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn says that was not the explanation he was given when he called Wilson while the post was still up, concerned that the page had been hacked.
"I found out through talking to Dr. Woodrow Wilson, that Everett had put it up there and Everett was proud that he put it up there. He wanted to share with the citizens of Caddo what someone had sent him and did it without the second thought."
Some in the animal rescue community gathered at the Broadmoore neighborhood meeting Tuesday night to bring up their concerns about the issue to Linn who was speaking there.
"Why would Harris post something that offensive?" Animal Rescue advocate Bryan Molitor questioned. "My first reaction was, oh wow, Everett Harris has lost his mind," he said about initially seeing the post.
Only a few minutes of the neighborhood meeting was dedicated to the discussion, which consisted of Linn answering questions from the public about the situation.
"For Harris to post that on Facebook was absolutely the wrong thing to do," said Molitor.
Harris has been director at Caddo Animal Services and Mosquito Control for 7 years. In that time, there have been several documented confrontations and complaints involving Harris' dealings with the public and with local animal rescue groups, and even a petition to remove him.
In March, Shreveport Bossier Animal Rescue held a news conference calling on the Caddo Parish Commission to fire Harris, complaining that "Mr. Harris has a history of mocking, bullying, insulting, threatening, and harassing volunteers, rescue partners, and the general public."
The Caddo Parish Commission itself cannot fire Harris, however. That personnel decision would be up to Wilson, and Wilson said at the time that such action would be premature.
Now, Linn is wondering aloud whether this latest incident is enough to take efforts to remove Harris to the next level.
"The only recourse we have is to replace Woody Wilson in his position, to get rid of Everett, because apparently Dr. Wilson and Director Harris are so tight, they are inseparable. If Everett is going to go down, I guess Dr. Wilson is going to let him pull him down with him."
While the commission cannot fire Harris, the parish governing body could remove Wilson from his position with a unanimous vote.
It's unclear at this point whether there would be unanimous support for such an action among the commissioners.