Monday, September 3, 2007

Forte Founder Resigns with Strength from LAAS Commission

August 31, 2007

Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa
Mayor’s Office, City of Los Angeles
3rd Floor, City Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

For two years, I have worked very hard to help improve the Department of Animal Services (LAAS) and protect the integrity of the Mayor’s office as your appointed Commissioner.

However, my seeking transparency, clarity and honesty is apparently what Mr. Blackman, your Deputy Chief of Staff, does not want me to do. His consistent refusal to hold Mr. Ed Boks, the General Manager, accountable — for his actions, including making false, misleading and inflammatory comments to your office, staff, City Council, the public, and the media — has made my efforts ineffective at every level.

When I told Mr. Blackman that Mr. Boks would not shut down his city website blog, against the advice of the LAPD’s Threat Management unit, Mr. Blackman dismissed my concerns and called it merely “one of the many wrong things Boks has done” that he’s already aware of and would not take any action.

On the city website, Mr. Boks recently bashed the Director of LA County Animal Control and attacked one of the most reputable animal-welfare organizations which has provided invaluable assistance to the city’s department. Instead of allowing the Commission to keep Mr. Boks under control, it is my opinion that Mr. Blackman conceals critical facts and protects Mr. Boks’ misbehavior from your view. As a result, one such distortion made you appear uninformed at a recent press conference about the state of the city animal shelters. Consequently, several media outlets are presently investigating your claims of LAAS success.

Mr. Blackman looked the other way on another serious problem when Mr. Boks grossly misled City Council on August 3rd, during Item #41. As a result, City Council had to table an innovative program when it was discovered that Mr. Boks failed to consult with the Commission, Personnel and SEIU.

Recently, the Commission discovered its serious procedural problems with a past appeal. I was not involved with this particular appeal, however, I felt it was the Commission’s sworn duty to right its wrongs, and restore its integrity, when the process was violated, with unfairness and prejudice appearing high and harmful.

Unfortunately I have learned that certain members of your administration, this department and the Commission are incapable of acknowledging errors, therein misleading the public. Such actions (or inactions) are resulting in the needless suffering and death of many animals, mistreatment of the public, and wasting of financial and human capital.

You are welcome to contact me if you wish to be further informed about Mr. Boks’ crises, including, but not limited to, the veterinarian shortage; unopened spay/neuter clinics; zero foreign language outreach; shelter overcrowding; delayed shelter openings; end-runs on key stakeholders; and a tidal wave of public relations disasters.

As I recall, one of your campaign platforms was to uphold the ethical standards expected by the city residents. Most recently, you stressed the importance of accountability. While these values may not matter to some of your key staff, I hope they still matter to you.

In closing, I am resigning my position as a Commissioner because I can no longer, in good conscience, be a part of such demoralization. I wish that I were allowed to apply my business skills and expertise as a nonprofit organization leader (the reason why you appointed me), to fully serve the people and animals of Los Angeles, which is supposed to be the City of Angels.


Marie Atake


Cafe L.A. said...


The mayor's desperate grab for positive news at the shelter animals' expense is sad, especially since nothing he said was true.

Anonymous said...

Marie Atake's resignation is such a huge loss to the integrity and compassion of the Board of Animal Commissioners, and we can only hope that the good that will come out of it is GETTING RID OF THE LYING ED BOKS! This town isn't big enough for his ego. We can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth, and the animals are suffering because of his incompetence.

SaMo Rsqr said...

Mayor Viagra-sosa should have researched Ed Boks before hiring him. NY unanimously dumped Ed for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to see Marie leave. Marie, you are a wonderful advocate for the community and animals. You will be greatly missed. I wish we could just leave our egos aside and do what is right for animals who can't speak for themselves. They are the helpless ones here. We need to work together to make real positive change. LA should be a wonderful leader and teacher for the rest of state. Right now we are in a sad state and Marie you will be missed.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor needs to start seriously thinking about making some changes to the department of Animal Services and finding a way to get Marie Atake to withdraw her resignation! She is the last one that should be leaving! I always thought the Department of Animal Services was run by true animal lovers? Not so! Actually now that Marie has resigned poor Kathy Riordan is the only "true" animal lover left on the department. How sad!

Anonymous said...

I hope this blog stays up. This is an opportunity to disseminate the truth. It can be a great forum for debate.
I hope the blogger censors the individuals who have a different agenda than improving the department and holding this administration accountable.
Did the mayor try to quash the ones asking too many questions? When Marie tried to right a wrong, did they tell her to support the lies? Who are they protecting? Why? What happened to accountability, ethics and integrity? Why are the bad people keeping their jobs or getting better ones? Why isn't the mayor going after the ones who give cause for those questions? That be Boks, the people Atake addressed in her letter and the ones who protected them.
Keep up the good work Marie. We need you. We love you.

Ronnie Krokdal said...

I hope your resignation will have an effect on the Mayor, resulting in some positive actions!

Ronnie Krokdal

Anonymous said...

We in the animal community are all so proud of you for having the courage to stand up and publicly denounce those responsible for all that is so horribly wrong with LAAS.

You did everything you could to work within the system to make change but Villaraigosa is the only one who really has the power to change the corrupt killing system, and he's not going to do it. He's too busy spinning lies, having affairs and covering his own clueless ass. (With a lot of help from his toadies, Blackman and Bickhart). Maybe the next mayor will have more compassion and actually care about the animals in our city - it's our only hope for saving the lives of animals in our shelters.

Your resignation as a victory - not a defeat - because you did so in such a public and forthright manner. If Villaraigosa and his staff don't listen to you, there's no hope for the animals for now.

It would be so amazing if all of us who have been working so hard for all these years could really make the changes that are so urgently needed - for the animals' sakes. But it just doesn't appear to be possible under the current corrupt regime.

Please know that everyone has great respect and admiration for your courage. Instead of staying on the Commission and keeping a high-profile appointment for your own ego or personal agenda (like certain others on City commissions - particularly this one), you resigned publicly, with truth, integrity and honor.

Is anyone listening?

karma1 said...

This is a HUGE loss for the LAAS Commission. Marie is always on the side of the animals. Sad she did not receive the support she needed. Rande

Anonymous said...

You are one of the finest people I have ever known. I am sorry to hear of your resignation, but fully understand what you have been facing for so long. The lack of political integrity in this city is frightening. If more people
like you would take a stand-the people would have no choice but to see what really occurs regarding this situation, and that the statements made by the mayor and his enormouse ego were only for his own personal gain.

Jennifer said...

I am a volunteer with Marie Atake's Forte Animal rescue group
( and know that Marie's resignation has caused much
controversy among her peers and within the Los Angeles community.

I just wanted to say that she made a brave move by resigning and
publicly denouncing some of the things happening with the LAAS. I know
that it must have been a hard decision for her and I hope everyone
that is denouncing her decision realizes that she is incredibly
passionate about rescuing dogs in need. I do what I can to assist here
and there but watching her in action make me want to do more. I don't
know where she gets all this energy.

I can't profess to understand the politics within the Board of Animal
Services but I do know that Marie is one of the few people that really
lives by her convictions 24/7. We need more people in the world that
aren't afraid to speak out when injustice is being served. I hope that
Mayor Villaraigosa understood when he gave Marie Atake this post that he
was signing on with someone who lives, eats, and breaths animal

I am proud and honored to have a role model like Marie in my life.

Thank you,

Jennifer Fenton

Jean said...

Marie Atake's resignation can be viewed by some as a negative action, yes. However, to those who do not have the opportunity to know Marie, please know that she is an extremely intelligent, ethical and passionate woman. She would not resign if she did not feel that her sacrifice would serve the greater good for the animals.

Please support Marie because if we do not, Ed Boks will continue to make a mockery out of our city's animal services and more of the animals we love and fight for will continue to suffer and die. We should be calling for Ed Boks resignation so that we can remove the cancer from this organization and give support to fine ethical advocates like Marie and Kathy Riordan to make the changes so desperately needed.

Like Jen Fenton, I am a volunteer for Forte Animal Rescue. Marie is also my role model and inspiration. I hope to honor her by following her example and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Jean Steffeck

Erin S. said...

It's disappointing and frustrating that the Mayor has allowed an inept and ineffective character such as Mr. Boks to hinder real progress within the county's animal services department. Mayor Villaraigosa will not only lose more qualified and dedicated people like Marie Atake, but his own credibility will continue to suffer if he allows Mr. Boks to represent the Mayor's own policy on animal interests and welfare.

Esquire said...

I am honored to know you, that you have taken such a brave and powerful stand, that most people wouldn't dare.

You are an example for all of us.

pam said...

Marie is a saint as far as I'm concerned.

I have been depressed for days, but the only light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that Mayor Villaraigosa will no longer be able ignore the antics of Ed Boks, and he will be sent on his way sooner than later. So many lives depend on it!

Bless you Marie.

s-humane said...

The loss of Marie Atake on the Los Angeles Animal Commission is great. Her compassion and integrity is limitless. She sought to bring out the urgent issues concerning the animals and she will be missed.

Mayor Villaraigosa spent much of his time courting those of us involved with animal issue. We are impatiently waiting for the coming election.

All we get from the Mayor and the General Manager are lies, lies and more lies.

Sue Cosby said...

Sometimes you can make change from within the system. Sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, you cannot.

I applaud Marie for taking a strong stand and I am certain she will continue to push for progress in the community in a way that she will find more productive and beneficial for the animals.

Anonymous said...

It was with great dismay that I read about the resignation of one of the best Commissioners we have had in recent memory in the City of Los Angeles. Marie Atake has dedicated the past two years of her life to enact policies that would improve the Department of Animal Services and help achieve better care for animals in this city. Her appointment indicated a commitment to real positive change for a troubled Department. Her resignation comes on the heels of stymied attempts to wrench accountability from a General Manager who will not take direction and who has trouble working cooperatively with anyone whom he fears might take the spotlight off himself.

Having worked with a succession of General Managers beginning with Dan Knapp to improve LAAS policies, I too cannot begin to express my disappointment that our mayor does not see and act on the obvious: the current General Manager is not competent to do the job.

Thank you, Marie, for having the courage to stand up and speak on behalf of the animals. Your example prompted me to resign my volunteer position with LAAS so that I too can speak more freely about the conditions there.
I hope that others will now have the courage to speak out.

Michelle Kelly
Former LAAS Volunteer 1999-2007

Anonymous said...

Marie Atake shines with integrity, knowledge and substance. Ed Boks reeks with self-absorbed, bungling fakery.

What is wrong with Jimmy Blackman that he covers up for incompetent Ed Boks, yet Blackman allows LAAS to lose Commissioner Atake? Antonio Villaraigosa and his underhanded underling Blackman should have begged Marie to stay! Marie tried to get honesty and accountability from Ed Boks, but that is like asking a rain cloud to give you a sunny day.

You did more than anyone to persevere against the Boks/Blackman brick wall, cemented by spineless commission president Tariq Khero. You will thrive and help more because you have openly rejected the handcuffs of Boks and government cover-ups. I respect you Marie and your honesty.

Charlotte Laws said...

Thank you for all of your hard work on the Animal Commission. I know the number of hours it takes to fulfill Commission duties.

The interests of the animals were always your primary concern. This is how it should be.

Because nonhuman animals are voiceless and the most oppressed members of our society, it is important that people always speak out in their favor.

Thank you again for your service.

Charlotte Laws

Anonymous said...

The City has lost a wonderful passionate Commissioner. Shame on the City.

Does everyone realize this? LA Animal Services Commissioners are not paid, not one cent. They spend countless hours of their own time every single day emailing, talking on the phone, going to meetings, researching the problems and solutions for animals in LA. They know they can be attacked by some activists yet they still carry on with their duties.

Marie Atake brought compassion and years of animal experience to the Commission. Right now we only have one "animal person" left. Glenn Brown rarely shows up, Quigly is pro-City, Khero is now more pro-City than pro-animal. Kathleen is the only caring and knowledgeable animal person left. There goes any vote that could help animals. You know the Mayor will appoint a non-animal person to fill Atake's position who will just rubber stamp whatever Boks and the Mayor want.

We need to get the word out that we all must come together to fix the main problem with Animal Services today which is Ed Boks. Why didn't Blackman take a better look at his past? Boks admitted to close friends that he was indeed fired by New York. Ask Gary Kaskel. The only reason he was originally hired by New York and Los Angeles is because he faked his resume. He said he made a shelter in Arizona nokill when he didn't. He said he reduced euthanasia and increased adoptions. All he did was reduce the number of reported euthanasia and increase the number of reported adoptions. He did this using his bag of tricks which includes refusing animals, letting them die on their own, giving them away for free to hoarders, redoing the math and finally, changing the numbers directly.

Is LA going to stand for this fraud at the expense of the animals lives? I hope everyone calls into the show today.

Anonymous said...

We are behind you Marie. You are extremely brave and have more compassion and integrity in your little pinky than Boks and crew all have put together.

We need to all come together and have the mayor remove this outsider (Boks) at once. We should have a GM from our own community so we don't have to question their interests and intentions, and can be confident that the animals are their main concern.

This is our town Boks, and you don't belong here! GET OUT!!!!!!

Wouldn't it look better on your bogus resume if you resigned rather than got fired? LEAVE!!!!!!!!!!

rescuealliance said...


I experienced a lot of different emotions reading your resignation letter: sadness that it has come to this; relief that you are free now to publicly and openly express your opinions, pride that you have so bravely exposed the “dirty little secrets” about the LAAS Commission; anger that you and Kathy have been consistently thwarted in your heroic efforts to perform the charter-mandated function of real, true Department oversight; frustration that your replacement likely will be another dispassionate old-school relic; and respect, that you chose to maintain your integrity rather than rubber-stamp activities which run contrary to the welfare of the animals and the Department as a whole.

Bravo, and thank you for all you have done for the homeless animals of Los Angeles, especially in pulling aside the curtain and revealing the puppetmasters who are responsible for the crisis we face. I wish you all the best in your continuing efforts as a rescuer and humane advocate. Your example is one for us all to follow.

For the animals,

Scott Sorrentino
Rescue & Humane Alliance-Los Angeles

Anonymous said...

It's very disappointing to lose Marie Atake as a Commissioner, part of a larger trend where it seems like anybody who tries to openly face and address problems with LAAS is pushed aside or alienated. People with good will, energy and enthusiasm could make such a difference in the shelter system but they're not valued or utilized as they should be.

Successful organizations do what it takes to keep their best people but it seems like LA Animal Services does the opposite. It's tragic that the system remains broken while staff, volunteers and the rescue community just try to put aside their frustration and do what they can, afraid to speak up too much and be shut out all together.

If this is the Mayor's idea of a department deserving a commendation, he is sadly out of touch.

Marie, thank you for your service and Forte Animal Rescue will continue to have my support.

resqpet said...

ResQPet Said; Loosing Marie Atake from the Commission is a lost voice for Honestly and Integrity...Please Mr. Mayor, do the right thing, stand up for the animals..

Anonymous said...

I was saddened to hear of your decision to resign from the Commission but certainly understand your reasons.

I hope you will still stay involved in demanding that this Department fulfill its duties to the animals and the taxpayers of L.A.

Anonymous said...

It is also sad that so many have to make comments "anonymously said" simply because of the backlashing that results to rescuers, LAAS volunteers, and the LAAS staff that care but have to cower down because of the irreparable consequencies of speaking openly. Scott Sorrentino and the anonymous said comments that follow his posting "hit the nail on its head." We can only hope that we don't now hear "oh, it's just a bunch of activist...!"

The Mayor must address this. It's the same scenario he's been battling with the school system--some are opposed to righting the wrongs and media keeps writing misleading and inaccurate articles!

I will post more later.

DAVE said...

mayor villaraigosa:
this much lying cant be easier than actually doing your job. throw those appointees from your bus quick. do you think bocks and blackmun make good political baggage?
why dont you just give them your big award letter / photo op and then dismiss them.
actually heres a better idea. circle your wagons around these lying thieves and cheat on your wife while escaping on a private jet. this will help your image more. you can even hold a press conference on telemundo!
Lets all remember this event so we don't elect this fool mayor governor...
good for marie
good for michelle

Anonymous said...

ed bocks lookin for love...his profile!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie - this is what I sent to the Mayor:

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

I just wanted to let you know how very disappointed I am in Ms. Atake’s resignation – she was an extremely valuable member of the Commission. Additionally, I agree wholeheartedly with Marie’s assessment with Ed Boks’ lack of accountability and other gross mismanagement issues. The main reason I voted for you was your promise to better the lives of the animals in the Los Angeles City shelters – a promise that I believe you have not upheld.


R. Black - LAAS Volunteer

Anonymous said...

Government has again disabused another 'good one' at working within the system. When the camera is rolling those in office say anything they choose, no matter how inacurate. I work in a shelter. We KILL 20-30 dogs and cats EVERY DAY and I have never seen or heard of Boks or Villaraigosa visiting once. They care more about ego than lives.

Phyllis Daugherty said...

I was saddened to hear of your decision to resign from the Commission but certainly understand your reasons. I hope you will still stay involved in demanding that this Department fulfill its duties to the animals and the taxpayers of L.A.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Marie for taking a stand against Ed Boks, I hope that more take a stand against a person that is only out to better his image while leaving another dying animal services department to die or have to recover after he leaves.

As a department employee I have watched the department go from one of the best in the country with high moral and a really caring concern for the animals in our charge to a department that is torn apart internally and the animals are the ones that are suffering in overcrowded conditions, going stir crazy from being in a cage for months and months with no human interaction. The quality of medical care is horrible because of the over crowding and a vet staff that is over worked and no longer cares.

We have recently lost three top employees all Captains to LA County and one to LAPD, these were the best, not ones we might have wanted to leave. They were the ones that could have helped us move in a new and better direction. There are several integral employees that are near retirement that will be leaving in part because of Ed Boks as soon as they can and some others that are looking into leaving early if they can. This is not the way to keep the department strong and caring.

A thank you to Dennis Zine and the other two commissioners for being willing to stand up and speak their mind in public, you are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

What a shame you have resigned Marie. I also am appalled at the overcrowding at the shelters. No Kill doesn't work if the animals' lives are not being enriched while in the care of the shelters. I've personally witnessed dogs going kennel crazy, animals not being fed, cats being piled one on top of another; the list goes on and on. The staff need more tools and support to to do their job effectively and there are not enough volunteers coming into the shelters. I've had many a volunteer tell me they refuse to go into the shelters and help because they are so saddened by what they see. Someone needs to wake up and smell the roses and stop being in such denial about the conditions inside the shelters.

Sue Taylor said...

Dear Marie:

I read with sadness that you resigned from the Commission, but understand and appreciate your reasons. And I wanted to acknowledge your mention of Mr. Boks' using a City blog to attack my credibility. I just wanted to point out that public relations shouldn't be used to smooth over the many issues that face the animals in our City shelters. If the news coming out of the Department gives the public the impression that all is well and good,then soon people will wonder why we need new shelters or new laws and breeders will be able to argue against them.

You are very gutsy to put yourself out there in the public eye over your resignation. You have my best wishes.

andrew said...

Marie Atake’s resignation is a huge loss for the city of Los Angeles and for animal rights. The mayors attempt to put positive spin on her resignation is a failed attempt at political cover up.

Anonymous said...

I think the tax payers should be able to vote for the person in charge of LA Animal Services not the mayor. They pay for the services, but are the last to know the truth. If they only knew of the wasted funds of the tax payers that does not make it to what it was ment for, and the suffering animals in the shelters done by Boks command. The mayor has made several bad choices, Ed Boks is #1 BAD CHOICE for the wonderful citizens of Los Angeles. We deserve better!