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Saving Raccoon, Losing His Job

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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Todd Sutton thought he was doing the right thing.

When he and others arrived on the job site on a recent morning at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion project, they found a raccoon in a trap previously set by the builders, he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The plan was to euthanize the critter, which had been causing mischief around the site, Sutton knew. The $610 million expansion project, which will add 225,000 square feet to the museum, is expected to open in 2016.

Todd Sutton via San Francisco Chronicle

Todd Sutton freed this raccoon and lost his job in the process.

Sutton, who was supervising drywallers for RFJ Meiswinkel Company, didn't want that to happen.

'Just a Little Baby'

“I was just doing what I thought was right,” he told the paper. “He was just a little baby. I said, 'I’m not going to let this happen. I’m going to do what is necessary for this raccoon.’”

So Sutton told others at the site to stand back and put the cage in his pickup truck, covering it with a blanket because "he's a nocturnal animal."

Sutton said the raccoon was "just chillin'." But Sutton's employers weren't.

'Didn't Think I'd Get in Trouble'

According to the Chronicle, when general contractor Webcor Builders learned that Sutton had saved the pesky critter, the company ordered RFJ Meiswinkel to remove him from the museum job.

SFMOMA rendering
Courtesy Snøhetta

The $610 million expansion of San Francisco MOMA is slated to open in 2016.

Instead, a Meiswinkel superintendent called Sutton and, when he admitted to the capture, fired him outright.

“When they accused me, I didn’t deny it,” Sutton told the Chronicle. “I didn’t think I’d really get in trouble. I said, 'Are you really going to let me off the job?’”

Webcor did not respond Monday (March 9) to a request for comment. Meiswinkel declined to comment; Sutton could not be reached.

The Chronicle notes that under California law, "nonnative animals that are damaging property or crops can be legally trapped and euthanized by licensed companies."

The news outlet also notes that raccoons can seriously damage structures by everything from leaving droppings to chewing up wiring.

'Something that Didn't Belong to Him'

Webcor vice president Matt Rossie told the newspaper that the animal had gotten into the building from the sewer and was damaging the site.


General contractor Webcor said Sutton should not have taken the animal from the work site. The raccoon was supposed to have been euthanized.

Rossie also expressed concern that the wild animal could have endangered other workers.

Finally, Rossie said, "We were concerned [Sutton] had taken something that didn’t belong to him and left the job site.

“We asked Mr. Sutton to go home for the day, and that for him to remove any property from the job site is basically theft and it wasn’t going to be tolerated.”

'A Hero'

The news outlet says Sutton released the animal in a public area by the Bay Bridge and returned the trap to the site.

Since then, he has reportedly contacted an employment attorney, who calls him a "hero" and is looking at the case.

Sutton, meanwhile, has found another construction job. It pays less than before, but Sutton says he would "do the same thing again."

He adds: "This whole thing was just nuts."


Tagged categories: Commercial contractors; Maintenance + Renovation; Museums; North America; Project Management; Renovation

Comment from sue howarth, (3/10/2015, 8:19 AM)

are you kidding me! get a grip people. why don't you worry more about actual theft than the rescue of an animal that's just doing what animals do.

Comment from john lienert, (3/10/2015, 8:41 AM)

guy loses his job over a move, meiswinkel

Comment from Thane Katz, (3/10/2015, 9:41 AM)

Really? Someone loses their job for being compasionate? All I can say is good for you Todd Sutton.

Comment from Laurie Dickeson, (3/10/2015, 9:57 AM)

Since when is a raccoon a "non-native" species to the Bay Area?

Comment from Jeffrey Stewart, (3/10/2015, 11:10 AM)

If that is all the value Meiswinkel has for life, maybe Mr. Sutton is better off working for someone else.

Comment from peter matelyan, (3/11/2015, 12:41 AM)

Maybe Mr. Sutton was fired because he exposed someone bringing their pet to work and was caught doing so. Better reason then the one given!

Comment from José Avendaño, (3/11/2015, 7:41 AM)

What Mr. Sutton did deserves my praise. I believe that he should be compensated and return to his old job.

Comment from Simon Hope, (3/12/2015, 9:13 AM)

Well done Mr Sutton, what right do they think they have to kill an animal after they have trapped it and traumatised it already. maybe it would be better to take some of Meiswinkel or Webcor should have some of their 'pesky executives' subjected to the same terror and then 'euthanased' after which some slightly more tolerant and realistic persons can replace them. treating an act of compassion this way deserves an Excocet as a reply. Disgraceful and idiotic behaviour!

Comment from Chuck Pease, (3/13/2015, 12:44 PM)

I would have done the same thing Sutton did. Bravo. You are better off where you landed !!

Comment from Robert Berg , (12/22/2015, 8:12 AM)

This could of been great publicity for the job site, almost every job site i am on could use a little good publicity. Good job Sutton.

Comment from Monica Chauviere, (1/7/2016, 9:56 AM)

Isn't it odd how the lack of tolerance for an animal pivots on the population of its number? If the poor raccoon was one of a nearly extinct species, the entire project would have been put ON HOLD while an extensive team of investigators (paid for by taxpayers) determined whether the museum expansion would endanger the species. Then, of course, court suits (again paid for by you and me) to fight for the right to build anyway. And I agree with Laurie Dickeson. The only non-natives in this picture are the non-American natives walking around San Francisco.

Comment from Eric Johnson, (1/8/2016, 10:29 AM)

I know Todd Sutton; I was the sup't of a project he worked on, & he's an excellent worker & supervisor of his crews, & he did a superb job on a very complex, difficult job. He's no 'nut job' about animals, & I think he did the right thing. I would have done the same; there was ample reason to trap that raccoon, but there was no reason to kill it. What's that about anyway?...A WARNING TO OTHER RACCOONS? It cost no one anything for what Todd did, & he did not steal the trap, he brought it back. My opinion of Webcor Builders & Meiswinkel has dropped over their ridiculous actions, both in demanding to kill the raccoon & cashiering Todd for circumventing it.

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