Mercer County Animal Control Officer Appeals To Keep His Job
Claims Legal Drug Use Led To Failed Drug Test
The recently fired Mercer County animal control officer is asking for another chance.
After an executive session on Nov. 9, the Mercer County Fiscal Court voted to fire Animal Control Officer Kurt Baker effective immediately and to begin advertising to fill the opening. At that time the magistrates declined to give a reason for Baker’s termination.
At a public hearing on Thursday, Nov. 18, which was open to the press at Baker’s request, it was explained that he had been fired after failing a drug test following a recent accident. Baker said he failed the test because he had been taking a legal drug for anxiety and asked for his job back.
County Attorney Ted Dean asked Baker what happened that day.
Baker explained that on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 8:15 a.m., he was taking animals to Critters Without Litters to be spayed or neutered. Baker said the truck he was driving struck a car while he was backing up to off-load the animals. The accident did not appear to cause any damage to either vehicle, he said.
Baker said he called his supervisor, Todd Palmer, to report the incident and also made a report to the police. Following county policies and procedures, Baker then submitted to a drug test, which he failed. Baker blamed the positive result on an over the counter hemp vaping product, Delta 8.
“It brings down your anxiety,” Baker told the fiscal court. He said it was commonly used to relieve pain related to arthritis. Baker said he did not have a prescription for the product, which he said had been recommended to him by his therapist.
Baker said Delta-8 is not supposed to stay in the system as long as marijuana, which is one of the reasons he tried it.
“How often did you take this?” asked Magistrate Dennis Holiday.
Baker said he did not take it on a scheduled basis, but he often took it on nights to relax.
“It was a good way to unwind,” said Baker, who told the fiscal court he preferred it to drinking alcohol because, as an animal control officer, he was on call.
“I wasn’t willing to take that risk,” Baker said.