The town of Princeton was getting ready for its free rabies clinic when officials realized the municipality was low on rabies vaccines. An official contacted the state to request more, only to be told that according to state records, the town should have plenty of vaccine on hand.
Almost 400 rabies vaccines provided by the state to the municipality allegedly were unaccounted for, and paperwork for rabies vaccine clinics for 2013 and 2014 allegedly was missing as well.
The state requires that paperwork is filed after each clinic listing the clinic date, the amount of vaccine received, the amount of vaccine returned, the number of cats and dogs vaccinated, the number of vaccines lost or broken, and the total number of vaccine doses used. The form is supposed to be completed within 10 days after the clinic is held.
Unused vaccine in unopened bottles is supposed to be kept refrigerated until it is returned to the state’s distribution center. The vaccine should be returned within 10 days of the clinic.
The proper protocols were not followed in Princeton in 2013 and 2014, several sources say. It is unclear why, or what happened to the extra vaccine. Each vaccine dose costs between about $25 to $40 or more, plus office visit fees, when received from a veterinarian at a private practice.
Princeton Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson was suspended with pay over the issue, and then was offered the chance to resign.
Town Administrator Marc Dashield said today that Johnson quit, but Johnson says he was terminated.
“I want to be clear that Mark Johnson was separated on Monday, March 2nd, not terminated,”Dashield wrote in an email today. “I can not discuss the term of separation.”
Johnson disagrees with Dashield’s characterization of his departure.
“I have paperwork that says different,” Johnson said. “I did not quit. I was terminated.”
Separation agreements are public records in New Jersey. Planet Princeton filed an Open Public Records Act Request today, March 9, for the agreement.
Last week, Planet Princeton filed two Open Public Records Act requests with the town of Princeton and the New Jersey Health Department related to the rabies records issue after the state refused to comment.
On March 2, New Jersey Department of Health Spokeswoman Dawn Thomas confirmed that Princeton has submitted a request for vaccine for the current year, and that the department has provided Princeton with the vaccine.
Asked about issues with Princeton’s records and whether proper paperwork had been filed and unused vaccines had been returned, Thomas did not affirm or deny that there was an issue.
“The Department doesn’t have any comment on Princeton’s records,” Thomas said.
Asked to explain why basic information about state records could not be commented on, Thomas still declined to comment or explain how the state could justify a “no comment.”
“You can file an OPRA request for any filings of Princeton regarding the vaccination clinics,” she wrote in an email. “Or you can contact Princeton for their documents.”
Planet Princeton filed the OPRA requests on March 3, and is still waiting for responses.
Asked for comment on the rabies vaccine issue, Johnson said he could not comment “right now.”
Previous reports from other news outlets made it appear as if Johnson was suspended for issuing a citation to a resident for feeding a deer. Officials said the deer feeding citation issue is unrelated to his suspension and termination. According to the prosecutor’s office, there was no probable cause in the deer feeding case and the case was therefore dismissed.