Guest Spot: Animal control officer has got to go

For 30 years I’ve been a journalist with NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and before that with Walter Cronkite of CBS News. I’ve won two Emmys for investigative reporting. My avocation is animal lover and volunteer — not animal activist, which has a negative meaning in Riverhead. For four months since I exposed the lies surrounding the euthanasia of the dog Bruno on Dec. 21 — lies made up by animal control officer Lou Coronesi, who then shared those lies and others about me with Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller — I’ve been banned from being a volunteer or even walking on shelter property.

Mr. Coronesi said Bruno had bitten a child in the face; Councilman Jim Wooten shared the real bite report with me. My own investigation could not even establish if Bruno ever bit anyone in an alleged dog fight. Mr. Coronesi also said I was disrespectful to him. To avoid him, I made a point of going to the shelter when he wasn’t on duty. One day, unfortunately, he was on duty.

With no witnesses around, Mr. Coronesi then defamed me to his bosses. This man, who has been convicted of animal-related crimes, was believed. I was banned just like Linda Mosca of RSVP, who was banned over a year ago.
What’s going on here?

Maybe in the movie “Deliverance” Mr. Coronesi would have been kept on the job, but in the real world, I believe it’s scandalous that he still is collecting a paycheck from Riverhead taxpayers after criminal convictions dating to 2003 for unlawfully hunting and possessing animals protected by federal law, and then driving with a suspended license. This and the disrespectful way he’s treated volunteers and lied about them can’t be countenanced any further. The man must go.

What is the union thinking protecting Mr. Coronesi, who has a criminal record? And what is Mr. Walter thinking protecting such a person in an election year? And why did Mr. Walter set me up in a distorted story about a medical situation that I was just reporting about at a town meeting so proper medical attention could be given to shelter animals. To his credit, Mr. Walter says the dogs at the Riverhead Animal Shelter are now being tested regularly for disease.

Well over a year ago I adopted two badly injured pit bull puppies from Riverhead. They were going to be euthanized because of financial reasons, I was told. With the help of Gail Waller, private donations and the badly maligned rescue group RSVP, whose members have saved so many Riverhead shelter dogs, the pit puppies now are well and in great homes. RSVP is the reason why the euthanasia rate in Riverhead — that never has many dogs to start with — seems low.

I also know that authorities have a way of distorting facts and figures. I sued Southampton Town after I was unlawfully banned from its shelter for what I reported firsthand. I know that records can be changed or never turned in. I know that records can be more fiction than fact. I won a jury trial in federal court in Islip and an appellate court decision over this matter and the violation of my First Amendment rights.

The Bruno case is a paradigm of what a lying employee can get away with. In the April 7 issue of the Riverhead News-Review Chief Hegermiller was quoted as saying, “Lou is more by the book, which I don’t think they (the animal activists) like.” Chief, if Mr. Coronesi’s killing of Bruno was “by the book,” then you knew Bruno was supposed to be walked finally by volunteers — after isolation since Oct. 7 — because that was all written down. Mr. Wooten learned that Mr. Coronesi had indeed informed his superiors of Bruno’s change of status. Nevertheless he was euthanized. Why?

And why, Chief Hegermiller and Supervisor Walter, do you continue to advocate and protect this man who disrespects or bans volunteers and does as little as possible to provide a good life, exercise and homes for the animals in his charge?

Ms. Lynch is a New York City and Southampton resident.