Review: Former Columbus Zoo executives misspent $630K

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Trustees of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Friday that financial abuses by four former executives cost the institution more than $630,000, a new detail in the scandal that has marred the reputation of one of the nation’s largest zoos.

A forensic analysis ordered by the zoo’s board of trustees showed money collected through a zoo levy that pays for animal care not was involved, however.

The review was ordered after a Columbus Dispatch investigation showed apparent improprieties by the zoo’s then-chief executive and chief financial officers, including misuse of zoo properties and sports tickets.

The review ordered by trustees found a former marketing vice president and purchasing director also were involved.

The full review, conducted by Plante Moran and overseen by Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, was delivered to key state, county and city officials and to the Ohio Ethics Commission on Friday. It will be released to the public Saturday.

In highlights released Friday, the zoo said former president and CEO Tom Stalf was responsible for $423,000 of the losses, while former CFO Greg Bell was responsible for $139,000. Peter Fingerhut, then-vice president of marketing, was responsible for $57,000, while former director of purchasing Tracy Murname was responsible for $13,000.

“We trusted these individuals with the privilege to lead this singularly outstanding organization, and they shattered that trust,” board chairman Keith Shumate said in a statement.

He said the board and new leadership team will take immediate action to restore public trust. Trustees are reviewing recommendations made as part of the review.

Julie Carr Smyth
Julie Carr Smyth
Julie covers government and politics from Ohio.