Tom Otterness Killed Dog, Got City Contracts. What if He Killed People?

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Did Muni give this guy money, too?
It's almost impossible to stay rational when discussing the plight of dog-slaughtering artist Tom Otterness, who may or may not lose out on millions in city money due to his troubling past.

That's because it's hard to conceive of a transgression that would provoke more outrage among San Franciscans than Otterness'. He could have led Zippo raids in Vietnam, burning whole villages to the ground; robbed, looted and philandered; or shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Fog of war, youthful indiscretion -- those things are explainable. But chain an innocent puppy to a fence and shoot it -- as an art film, no less -- and you've made enemies for life here in San Francisco.

People did weird things in the 1970s. But, really, what kind of monster could do that to an innocent, trusting puppy? There's a reason Michael Vick is quarterbacking elsewhere.

So while the Municipal Transportation Agency and Arts Commission have certainly doled out contracts to a man who has killed a dog -- Otterness, for one -- it remains uncertain if city money has been divvied out to people who have killed people. "I can't say," answers Arts Commission spokeswoman Kate Patterson. "The city has done work with a lot of artists. I can't say whether or not someone has killed someone in the past."

Muni spokesman Paul Rose was also uncertain if anyone convicted of murder or manslaughter was currently earning a paycheck from his department.

In fact, there are any number of convicted felons working for the city today -- per city policy. In its "Disclosure and Review of Criminal History Records" section, the civil service commission has this to say:

In reviewing an applicant's criminal history information, the City and County of San Francisco shall evaluate the information on a case-by-case basis, with due consideration given to the following factors:

1) the nature and gravity of the offense; 2) the degree to which the conviction is related to the duties and responsibilities of the classification and position for which the individual has applied; 3) the time elapsed since the conviction; 4) the age of the applicant at conviction; 5) frequency of convictions; 6) evidence of rehabilitation; and, 7) any other mitigating circumstances.
And, keep in mind, those are the policies governing people who would work for San Francisco full-time -- not merely receive a contract as Otterness did.

Arts Commission president P.J. Johnston confirmed that a $700,000 commission with Otterness is "on hold" -- despite the artist already receiving $365,750. Should the pressure to sever ties with the artist grow insurmountable, yes, Johnston continues, it's quite possible the city will shower Otterness with hundreds of thousands of dollars while receiving nothing in exchange. That seems an odd way to punish him.

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Johnston notes that contracts handed out by his commission don't have a "character clause," and he's uncertain of the legality of voiding an agreement with an artist who'd been living up to his end of the deal due to a 34-year-old incident in which criminal charges were never filed.

"Certainly we've funded and participated in programs working with ex-felons and ex-juvenile delinquents and other people who've had dark episodes in their pasts," Johnston said. "It is a new and uncomfortable position for me to focus on not the artwork but the artist."

Finally, if there's anything at all humorous to come out of an affair involving the senseless slaughter of an innocent puppy and the city's histrionic reaction to it, we've got Leland Yee to thank. The state senator and mayoral candidate released a statement decrying Muni: "I am shocked that once again the MTA has failed the public. It is time for a mayor who will hold this out-of-control city department accountable."

Yes, given Muni's rich history of coming up short in transit-related matters and Yee's support of the $1.7 billion debacle-to-be that is the Central Subway project, this is the example he chooses of Muni's incompetence.   

In a Leland Yee administration, everyone accepting public money will be investigated regarding 30-year-old acts of animal cruelty. And Vick will be arrested at SFO when the Eagles arrive to play the Niners.

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40 comments
libertyfreedompatrio
libertyfreedompatrio

Otterness is a disgrace to artists and to human beings in general.

Anybody, at any time in their life, who thinks that shooting an innocent dog for "art" needs either treatment in a mental health facility or incarceration.

What a scumbag.

Pnalbach
Pnalbach

One day maybe he will be tied to a tree and shot

Minak
Minak

WHY is anyone giving this guy money to do anything???  He needs to work for free in the community service sense.    What he did was offensive to our society.  Is there a statute of limitations on this?  If not, time to go to jail.

Sharon Azar
Sharon Azar

This dog killer turned artist turned rich person is also the fault of our society which accepts the slaughter of the innocent as being within acceptable limits. But if that 'innocent' were a human child, it would be a different story. Otterness would be a felon in prison and our city would never know his so called 'art.' That Otterness continued to work and receive large commissions is a statement about how our society ignores cruelty when it is performed against someone we do not identify with, in this case a dog. Ghandi said "you can judge a civilization by the way it treats its animals". I would say our society fails miserably.

William
William

I have an urge to tie otter to a fence......

Animal Guardian
Animal Guardian

Hi all,

It is not too late to stop this funding. Please use simple link below tosend your letter to dozens of decision makers:

https://secure2.convio.net/ida...

 

Feel free to share this link, butnote that while anyone anywhere can fill it out, the sample letter needs minormodifications from people outside of San Francisco. Since San Francisco is amajor tourist destination, many people outside the city have an interest inwhat happens, so feel free to share.

 

Background (also provided in linkabove):

In 1977, Brooklyn resident Tom Otterness went to his local animal shelter,adopted a homeless dog, took him home, chained him to a fence, and shot him. Hefilmed the act, called it "Shot Dog Film," and claimed it was art.

Now Otterness may receive $750,000 from the San Francisco MunicipalTransportation Agency to create 59 bronze sculptures for the city's MosconeSubway Station. He recently lost a contract for the same amount in New YorkCity. This is your taxpayer money. If you don't want your taxes spent this way,please speak up.

Further info about this controversy can be found in these recent mediastories:

San Francisco Examiner

San Francisco Chronicle

KGO Channel 7 News

 

 

Personalize and submit the form below to e-mail your comments to:

San Francisco Mayor Ed LeeVarious officials of the San Francisco Arts CommissionVarious officials of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Karil Daniels
Karil Daniels

Arts Commission president P.J. Johnston must find a legal way to rescind Otterness' commission and require him to return any money he has received so far. 

When I first heard that my beloved city of San Francisco had awarded $750,000 to a monster who cold-heartedly killed a shelter puppy, called it art, and filmed it, I was overcome with sadness and outrage. How could such a major mistake happen, Where is the due diligence?

Overness killed that poor, innocent dog when he was an adult, at age 25, not when he was a clueless child of 6 or 8, or confused pre-teen or teen of 12, 14 or 16.  At 25 our personalities and values are formed and we know what we're doing. That act of dog murder reveals that he is a violent, sadistic monster who does NOT DESERVE public support, but rather ostracism. He should have been prosecuted at the time to the fullest extent of the law, and he deserves all the hate and opposition he's getting now.

New York and San Francisco are great cities filled with thousands of wildly talented, immensely creative and very deserving artists, so I have no doubt that a fine replacement artist will be found; one whose background is not stained with such despicable behavior.

I've read Overness' apology and I'm underwhelmed by it. What bullcrap! It's easy to say "I'm sorry" but if he really wants to atone for such a horrible crime and wants genuine forgiveness, then he should do something meaningful. A gift of at least 100K to a no-kill dog shelter would express true remorse. That's a real apology and a way to put this horror behind him. 

Since he's a rich and famous artist who gets big money, he can afford to make a big donation to save dogs and thereby make amends. If he wants forgiveness he has to do something that hurts him in the wallet and endure the pain.

Karil Daniels,Animal Lover

Robbin Sommer
Robbin Sommer

So murder of a poor dog is art? Shame on you and who ever buys these so called works.

Ashley Bolding
Ashley Bolding

What is that saying.. "two wrongs don't make a right"?

Just because people kill farm animals for food doesn't mean it should be socially acceptable to buy shelter animals and shoot them for 'art'. It's not about double standards, so you can stop trying to be Cpt. Relate the Irrelevent because nobody cares.

Petit_Navire
Petit_Navire

doG is God? don't crucify Otterness or run him out of town. 

acaldwell1958
acaldwell1958

whaaaah whaaaah, and whaaaaah!! aw shaddup all ready!! who cares?? this is a total waste of time and money that could be used to fight for homeless to get REAL AFFORDABLE HOUSING!!! this isnt news!! who cares? the bleeding heart liberals thats who!! here lil baby, heres a teat to suck on.....

Ted
Ted

A simple online search of the artist would have turned up the dog killing incident. It's dogged him in other cities with a spat of media stories.

coppersmom
coppersmom

the art will be savagely defaced.

LexRex
LexRex

Mr Eskenazi has written a smug, glib piece of hyperbole that makes some ridiculous arguments.  First, there is no criminal law against breaching contracts, so the mention of the "legality" of doing so is meaningless. The city may have to pay damages, but they would not be forced to perform (ie, allow his artwork) or be "punished" by a court. I think the city may be off the hook all together, anyway, though, because Otterness leaving out an important fact, one that, if found out, would have probably led the city to not give him the contract and/or harm the city after they did accept the contract (as is happening now with the bad publicity), might void the contract. In fact, Otterness may owe the city damages! Second, the difference between Otterness and other "criminals" the city hires is that (1) Otterness was never found guilty of a crime and has paid no debt to society, (2) those criminals disclosed their past, and (3) the crime "is related to the duties and responsibilities of the classification and position for which the individual has applied." Those are big differences. Last, the city isn't trying to "punish" Otterness. It just doesn't want to work with an unethical douchebag.

Do journalists not fact-check anything anymore? Have the standards really diminished that much? Goddam!

Adam Finch
Adam Finch

shooting a puppy chained to a fence is massive character failing.  I can tell you that if I ever meet this gentleman I would ask him, four inches from my face, to explain.  I would support canceling all his contracts with the city...

devon b
devon b

It's true, we vilify killers of certain animals but not others. This editorial also addresses the problem it poses to refuse the contract to Otterness. His act is dispicable but are we hypocrites for pointing it out ? http://dogtime.com/should-tom-...

StevelImages
StevelImages

Hey that's a good idea! Arresting Vick when the Eagles come to town. Only way we'll have a chance to win that game. 

Oaklanderish
Oaklanderish

The bigger question is why the city is wasting $750,000 on a damn mural.

A poetic gesture would be to give that money to the SF animal shelter.

And the city should get back the money they gave this sadistic jackass.

Elizabeth Frantes
Elizabeth Frantes

People who kill animal also kill the 2 legged animals.  Cruelty to any species is a sign of someone who really should be euthenized.  But what gets me is how tacky his "art" is, nothing more than 3 dimensional prefab cartoonery. 

cmerry
cmerry

Just interesting to know THERE ARE NO ARTISTS IN CA AND SAN FRANCISCO that could have done a San Fran Public Transport installation, seriously, they all must have moved out of the CA area and retired that your gov flunkies had to reach out to a dog killer in BROOKLYN to spend your CA TAX DOLLARS.

leggs67
leggs67

Two donkeys were shot in the making of the movie Patton. That was then this is now. Animal cruelty is much more visible and isn't done anymore. Get over it.

dawdler
dawdler

Look, what this jackass did was cruel and stupid.

But we as a country are kind of in a bad position here.

We ALL know (and if you don't at this point you're stupid or in denial) that a lot of livestock in this country is treated VERY inhumanely.  Not just killed but living in misery.

So basically what we're all saying is if you eat factory-farmed meat you are ineligible for a city contract?

Or is it OK to be inhuman to animals if you're not doing the dirty work yourself?

I'm just not sure how people are reconciling this.  It seems like there's a very odd double-standard happening here.  We should all look in a mirror.

Guest
Guest

"That act of dog murder reveals that he is a violent, sadistic monster who does NOT DESERVE public support, but rather ostracism. He should have been prosecuted at the time to the fullest extent of the law, and he deserves all the hate and opposition he's getting now"Listen to yourself! Animal rights activists shouldn't lose our sense of empathy for humans. You have a right not to forgive him, but no person deserves to be called a "sadistic monster." It's dehumanizing and overly simplified. People are complex; you have no idea what this man might have been going through in his life, and how he personally atoned for his mistake. And unfortunately, I don't think a public donation would solve anything - wouldn't you just say he was doing it to deflect public criticism? And would any amount ever be enough?

ace stonerman
ace stonerman

Seriously.  With the amount of activists and grafitti kids in this city that installation is D.O.A (pun intended)

Joe Eskenazi
Joe Eskenazi

LexRex --

Thanks for reading! Your argument confuses me a bit. So the fact that it's not a matter of "criminal" law means the city is free and clear to void a contract willy-nilly? That will come as some news to the 26,000 union employees in this town and countless contractors, nonprofits, etc. 

Also, you think the city might have to "pay damages" but won't be "punished by a court" if it dumps Otterness' contract. Interesting. Who do you think will be assessing those damages -- Simon Cowell? If the city breaks its existing contract with the artist over a non-criminal, 34-year-old incident, I think it's a good bet that the court system will be involved. City lawyers already are.

Your rationale that the city wouldn't be "punishing" Otterness by voiding contracts worth more than $1 million is also fairly novel. I'd say you're fighting a losing battle with the dictionary on this one.

You seem to think that Otterness is at fault for not disclosing the fact he once shot a dog prior to signing a contract to make public art for San Francisco. Notwithstanding the fact that this horrid art movie was purportedly freely available within his C.V., that's a novel position -- and would be stronger if "Did you kill a dog in some horrid 1970s art movie" was on the form. It isn't. It isn't Otterness' duty to disclose his moral failings -- he may have cheated on his spouse or lied to his parents, but he isn't obligated to blurt this out during a job interview. In fact, even if Otterness had been tried and convicted, the stipulations I listed in the article make it clear he was fair game for city dollars.

Finally, your reasoning regarding the difference between Otterness and convicted criminals is muddled and off-point. The notion here is that this city has policies in place to attempt to give former criminals a shot at employment. Many of these people doubtlessly did things far worse than Otterness. Yes, they "paid their debt to society" but I don't think that, had Otterness been hit with whatever the rinky-dink penalty was for animal cruelty in 1977, modern-day San Franciscans would factor that into their opinion of the man. He killed a puppy -- simple as that. Michael Vick went to jail, and he's still unforgivable in the minds of many.

The major thrust of this article -- which I thought was pretty overt -- is that Otterness' killing a harmless dog has given rise to a far greater outcry than would have been elicited if he'd been a convicted killer.

Best,

JE

Pnalbach
Pnalbach

Vick and the Eagles got theirs, the super team did nothing!Shame on the NFL and Roger Goodall, they need this person?

Elizabeth Frantes
Elizabeth Frantes

SenateWhore FineSwine's economic cleansing got rid of the jobs that paid living wages to the hoipolloi, and you can't have artists without cheap rents, which disappeared with the jobs.  She turned over the city to the developers, who wasted untold amounts of greenhouse gases tearing down what used to be a great place.  So no more local band, no more cool rock clubs, everything costs too much . . .and let's remember that construction jobs are temp jobs, and thus, our economy has been in a tailspin since that horrid old sow eliminated economic diversity.

Sharon Azar
Sharon Azar

Dear leggs67.. if the victim was your child and not 'just a dog' would you still say 'get over it?'

Petit_Navire
Petit_Navire

Thomas Edison made a film of an elephant being electrocuted and it played to audiences across the country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... Animal shelters routinely kill thousands of "pets" with taxpayer money.Although dog spelled backward is god...Otterness shouldn't be crucified for his act.

Elizabeth Frantes
Elizabeth Frantes

The problem with your logic is that we now know that those who are cruel to one species are cruel to their own, iow, he's a sociopath, and that wasn't "art" anyway.  Like to see a cite for your claim about the movie, btw.  I am aware that animals are often treated badly, but that doesn't excuse that the artist has no talent, and his works don't deserve public funds or exhibition.

Ashley Bolding
Ashley Bolding

So you're saying we should give dog killer here 700k for some less than mediocre bronze statues because people eat farm animals?

Office
Office

Killing animal is a sign of a true mentally deranged person. look it up.

ace stonerman
ace stonerman

blah blah blah - whatever it costs to get out of the contract will be far less than the total value of lost business and tourism.  This is just another black eye on the city by the bay.

Oh yeah, and you're wrong.  Had this 'artist' been a convicted murderer of a human - we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

dawdler
dawdler

So wait - is your problem that he killed a dog or that his art is mediocre?  Or are you saying if his art was better this would not be an issue?

dawdler
dawdler

you didn't actually read my comment, did you?

Ashley Bolding
Ashley Bolding

Lost business and tourism over statues in a train station? Because that's why people come to the Bay Area, to waste their time gazing at melancholy bronze characters in a grimey bart station while they are actually trying not to get lost.

Please.

ace stonerman
ace stonerman

dawdler, you have a point but it won't be recognized for another generation or two.  baby steps for now.

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