COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced it lost more than $630,000 due to former employees' misuse of zoo resources.
The announcement is tied to an investigation into former zoo executives accused of improper use of those resources.
The Columbus Dispatch reported in March that former president and CEO Tom Stalf and CFO Greg Bell let family members live in houses controlled by the zoo and got them tickets for entertainment events.
Stalf and Bell voluntarily resigned from their positions earlier this year.
As a result of the Dispatch's report, the zoo's board of directors started an internal investigation and worked with a law firm to conduct an independent inquiry.
The zoo says a full report on its findings will be released Friday but offered some details on Thursday.
According to the report, Stalf, Bell, former VP of Marketing Pete Fingerhut and former Director of Purchasing Tracy Murnane used their positions "to blatantly ignore established policies and use a system among themselves to utilize Zoo resources for their personal advantage."
The zoo says their actions resulted in the following losses, totaling $631,651:
- Stalf is responsible for $423,049.00 in losses, plus interest
- Bell is responsible for $138,889.00 in losses, plus interest
- Fingerhut is responsible for $56,981.00 in losses, plus interest
- Murnane is responsible for $12,732.00 in losses, plus interest
The zoo says the investigation confirmed that public levy funds, which the zoo receives to care for its animals, were not misused.
Additionally, the zoo said Bell provided pre-payments and advances to IronRoad, the zoo's former professional employer company, totaling $725,000.
The report states IronRoad owes the zoo a principal balance of approximately $375,000, plus interest.
“We trusted these individuals with the privilege to lead this singularly outstanding organization, and they shattered that trust,” said Board of Directors Chair Keith Shumate. “We are determined to implement the sound recommendations contained in the forensic analysis, which, combined with the steps we already have taken, will protect the Columbus Zoo from such abuses in the future and earn back the confidence of the public."
The zoo says the board is reviewing all options for recovering the losses and funds from the former employees.
“We are making changes and improvements to ensure something like this can never happen again. We are committed to restoring the excellent reputation of our Zoo,” said Shumate. “We have a remarkably talented and committed staff, which has been through a lot in this ordeal. We are grateful for their deep commitment to the animals, visitors, community and the Zoo’s mission.”