Jan 13, 2022 - News

Columbus Zoo could sue to reclaim misspent funds

The entrance of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, with a sign covered in animal print

The entrance to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Photo: Grahm S. Jones, courtesy of the zoo

The Columbus Zoo is prepared to take legal action against former president and CEO Tom Stalf to reclaim the $432,000 it lost due his misspending.

  • Meanwhile, two other employees involved in the financial scandal reached settlements with the zoo Wednesday afternoon, spokesperson Nicolle Gomez Racey tells Axios.

Why it matters: While the zoo is a nonprofit, about 20% of its yearly revenue comes from a Franklin County tax levy. The scandal has diminished the zoo's reputation and sparked a state investigation.

By the numbers: A forensic audit says the zoo lost at least $631,000.

  • Former chief financial officer Greg Bell settled for $132,000 and former director of purchasing Tracy Murnane settled for $11,000, slightly lower than the amounts the audit says they misspent, Keith Shumate, president of the zoo's board of directors, tells Axios.
  • The audit says former director of marketing Pete Fingerhut misspent $57,000. The zoo will take legal action against him too if necessary.

What they're saying: "We are still in discussions and we are hopeful that we can reach a settlement with them without legal action," Shumate says.


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