Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Keep zoo probe unbiased

WHEN problems at the Toledo Zoo first surfaced in early March, The Blade called for an investigation of every aspect of zoo operations, an examination that would be open, wide-ranging, and independent, an inquiry that would not automatically protect anyone in the current administration or begin with any assumptions. The zoo is too important to expect anything less.

Now, with publication of a laudatory e-mail from Robert Reinbolt, head of the citizens task force, to zoo director William Dennler, we have to wonder just how independent the investigation really will be.

Mr. Reinbolt says the message was intended only to keep open the lines of communication between the panel and zoo administrators in a highly charged, emotional atmosphere.

But the e-mail, with its congratulatory, even chummy tone, indicates that the task force chairman might have a personal bias in favor of Mr. Dennler. If that's the case, how can the public expect that the investigation will lead to wherever the facts take it?

We do not wish to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry, but a critical review that pulls no punches in its analysis of the zoo's problems is crucial for the future of this beloved community institution.

Anything short of that could leave a permanent pall of distrust hanging over the zoo that could impede not only the push to solve its current problems but also its future as one of Toledo's premier public attractions.

As we have said before, the investigation should not be concerned solely with the controversial firing of head veterinarian Tim Reichard, who appears to have been terminated because he talked frankly about zoo procedures with inspectors from the U.S. Agriculture Department last year.

Although news of Dr. Reichard's dismissal sparked the current inquiry, it is apparent that the zoo has other administrative issues that also must be reviewed and, when necessary, remedied.

Mr. Reinbolt and all members of the citizens task force should be maintaining an arms-length attitude toward the zoo's personalities and problems as the investigation continues.

Anything that calls into question the thoroughness and impartiality of the task force's work could blunt its effectiveness and damage the zoo in the public eye for a long time to come.

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