Former top employees cost Columbus Zoo over $631,000, report shows

Columbus Zoo

POWELL, Ohio (WCMH) — A report initiated by the Columbus Zoo Board of Directors and its attorneys shows former top employees misused resources to the tune of $631,651.

The report also says the misused money did not come from public levy funds used to care for the animals. Rather, the employees used barter accounts, credit card purchases, and personal gains and benefits without authorization, according to Zoo officials.

Thursday, the Board released the results of a forensic analysis performed by Plante Moran audit and accounting consultants. The report will be released to the public on Friday, according to Zoo officials.

“Former Zoo President/CEO Tom Stalf, former CFO Greg Bell, former VP of Marketing Pete Fingerhut, and former Director of Purchasing Tracy Murnane used their leadership positions to blatantly ignore established policies and use a system among themselves to utilize Zoo resources for their personal advantage,” the report says.

Among the findings:

  • 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.

In the aftermath of the investigation, Stalf and Bell voluntarily resigned their positions, while the Board of Directors pledged greater financial transparency.

“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,” said Board of Directors Chair Keith Shumate.

Zoo officials say they are “strengthening internal policies, creating additional checks and balances, and pursuing plans to seek restitution for the losses.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced in the spring that his office is investigating the situation.

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