Zoo, Equitas and Shelter Board must regain confidence after scandals

A list of “America’s best zoos” can only be taken seriously if it includes our own along the eastern shores of the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir on the Scioto River.

Opened in 1927, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of Ohio’s most renowned institutions.

He has long held the trust and the money of this community.

Following:Columbus Zoo loses accreditation for wildlife program, leadership issues, but plans call

The nonprofit is located on city-owned land and derives $ 19 million of its annual budget of $ 92 million from Franklin County taxpayers.

More than that, Greater Columbus is rooting hard for the zoo and wants him to win.

It is for these and other reasons that the board of directors of the zoo – one of three respected Columbus nonprofits now in the middle of embarrassing and shameful scandals that have shaken public confidence – must take strong action to maintain public confidence and support. The boards of directors of the other two organizations must do the same and increase and maintain their vigilance.

Jack Hanna and daughter Julie, left, and wife Suzi, right, hold a trio of 3-week-old baby cheetahs inside the Animal Programs building at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 2018 in this photo archive.

News that the zoo was stripped of the accreditation it had held since 1980 from the industry’s major accrediting bodies came a day after he named Tom Schmid, President and CEO of Texas State Aquarium, as next executive.

He and the zoo board will have their hands full to restore public confidence that they are vigilant stewards of our money and that they deserve admiration.

Honesty and transparency to the public will be essential with zoo officials, as will be the case with zoo leaders. Community Shelter Council and Equitas Health.

Following:Community Shelter Board employee paid over $ 350,000 to friends who weren’t homeowners

Ebony Wheat, an employee of the Community Shelter Board, has pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft and is awaiting conviction for cutting $ 352,769 in checks to friends who weren’t homeowners and didn’t provide no service to the agency’s homeless clients.

The Board of Directors of Equitas Santé trustees plan to investigate claims of racial discrimination within the Columbus-based health care provider after The Dispatch interviewed 15 former Equitas employees who say they experienced or witnessed mistreatment of black employees.

Following:Theodore Decker: About the internal theft, the Community Shelter Board has more to explain

They spoke out against discrimination in the hiring, promotion and discipline of Equitas, a nonprofit health care system that serves the health needs of LGBTQ + people in 13 cities in Ohio, including this one. It generated $ 56 million in revenue for the year ended June 30, 2020.

Lust Singleton, the community outreach coordinator for Mozaic, an Equitas health facility, protests outside the building at 2228 Summit St. in Columbus on October 8.

Of the three, the zoo may have given the capital its most remarkable minnow.

The Bruised Eye is described as a “global culture of the law” in a forensic report which found that the abusive spending and questionable business practices cost the zoo at least $ 631,000.

Then Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf speaks at the Straker Lake Cabins opening at The Wilds in 2018. The tender for this project is now part of investigation into Stalf and CFO Greg Bell.  Both men resigned on March 29.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums – the international gold standard – cites concerns about the Columbus Zoo’s acquisition from non-AZA members of baby tigers and snow leopards for entertainment purposes, as the documentary highlights. “The conservation game”, and the inappropriate financial management problems of former leaders.

Financial details have been brought to light by a series of Submit articles about their personal use of zoo resources.

Tom Stalf, then president and CEO of the zoo; and Greg Bell, then CFO, resigned after the newspaper’s investigation showed they were looking for zoo tickets for their family members to attend various entertainment events and allowed loved ones to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo.

The zoo board at the start refused to disclose details of its investigation into the matter, but changed tone following public outcry.

Officials from the Ohio Ethics Commission and the offices of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber are investigating.

Guests enter on the first day of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium reopening after restrictions were lifted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic last June.

The zoo says it has already taken several corrective actions, including changing the reporting structure from the animal programs department to the vice president of animal care instead of the chief financial officer, ending relationships with all providers highlighted in the retention game, and updating all non-AZA institutional profiles and improving monitoring of approvals.

He plans to appeal the Zoos and Aquariums Association’s decision by the October 30 deadline.

Following:Community Shelter Board employee paid over $ 350,000 to friends who weren’t homeowners

In a report, Jerry Borin, interim CEO and president of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said the zoo met Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards when inspectors visited in July.

“The bad decisions of a handful of people should not negate the good work of this team and the contribution of staff members to AZA through committee work and leadership roles,” he said. declared. “No one who currently works at the zoo has had anything to do with the position we find ourselves in today. We have recognized the wrongdoing of the past. We’ve also made changes and updated policies to ensure this doesn’t happen again. “

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium board chairman Keith Shumate, right, and acting zoo executive director Jerry Borin interact during a board meeting.  The board has met for its first regular meeting since the resignation of former Zoo CEO Tom Stalf and CFO Greg Bell.

The zoo can apply for re-accreditation in September if the Association of Zoos and Aquariums rejects its appeal.

We hope they don’t have to.

Institutions like the Columbus Zoo, the Community Shelter Board, and Equitas Health provide essential services to our community.

They cannot be allowed to self-destruct, and members of all their boards – where the responsibility ends – should be called to the mat when they make bad and costly decisions or sleep at work while others make bad and costly decisions. .

There is far too much at stake for such nonchalant surveillance, which allows recklessness and, in some cases, shameless theft.

Editorials are the Dispatch Editorial Board’s factual assessment of issues important to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting employees, who aspire to neutrality in their reporting.

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