ROCKVILLE — The primary backer of a proposed horse slaughtering operation in western Missouri said she isn't giving up, even though plans have stalled because of legal problems surrounding the plant that was to be used for the business.
In June, Wyoming legislator Sue Wallis announced that a former beef processing plant in Rockville was being retrofitted to be a horse slaughtering plant, raising hopes of bringing much-needed jobs to the town 100 miles south of Kansas City.
But Wallis' company, Unified Equine, has not acquired the plant and no work has been done at the site, The Kansas City Star reported Monday.
Wallis' critics said that is typical of how she has operated since she began pushing to reopen horse slaughtering plants in the United States after Congress voted in 2011 to restore funding for horse plant inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"She goes around to all these places with the promise of jobs and people get all excited and nothing ever comes of it," said Pat Fazio, who works to protect wild horses in Wyoming and has clashed with Wallis many times.
Wallis insisted she plans to continue working to acquire the Rockville plant, noting that organizations such as the Missouri Equine Council support her effort.
Wallis said her company wanted to open a plant in Missouri because it would be close to major transportation hubs and within a few hundred miles of 30 percent of the country's horses. The plant would be able to process up to 200 animals a day.
The company said its plant would mainly buy healthy, mature horses, process their meat as steaks and hamburger and ship it to markets in China, Mexico, Europe and some ethnic niche markets in the U.S.
But the Rockville plant she wants to use is mired in ownership and legal troubles. Last September, owner Vincent Paletta was sued for breach of contract by a company owned by his wife. Since then, the couple has been sued by a Grandview electrician who sought a lien on the property, saying he is owed $60,000 of refrigeration work.
And Vincent Paletta was charged in February with two counts of stealing involving to plant's operation. He has pleaded not guilty and has said the other issues are being resolved.
Even if the plan moves forward, Wallis will be opposed again by Cynthia McPherson, an attorney who successfully led a fight earlier this year when Wallis announced she planned to open the horse slaughtering operation in Mountain Grove, in south-central Missouri. McPherson represents the electrician who sued Paletta.
Unlike in Mountain Grove, Rockville residents generally supported Wallis' plans. Mayor Dave Moore said the town was behind it because the beef processing plant had been the town's biggest employer before it shut down.
Moore said recently that the town continues to hope the project will happen but he acknowledged that nothing has been done since Wallis visited the town to promote the idea.
On top of all the other issues, Congress could again take away funding for USDA inspections of horse slaughter operations. Last month, an amendment to remove funding was added to an appropriations bill by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia. It has cleared the House Appropriations Committee.