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Published: 3/23/2005

Ex-consultant calls zoo saga 'tale of lost war'

E-mail to Toledo contacts paints picture of gloom

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Warrick Warrick
PHOTO BY SHEILA KRISHNAN Enlarge

The Toledo Zoo's controversial -- and recently terminated -- human-resources consultant sent a midnight e-mail Sunday to his Toledo contacts detailing his version of the working situation at the zoo.

Scott Warrick, a Reynoldsburg, Ohio, lawyer and human-relations consultant whose $145-an-hour contract with the zoo was terminated Friday, e-mailed an essay that painted a gloomy picture of the zoo.

The essay began with a quote from a plaque that sits above the zoo's administrative offices entrance: "Beyond This Place ... There Be Dragons!"

Mr. Warrick said yesterday he was not focusing his criticism on management but rather on the "bullies" in the mammal department, employees he claims he was brought in by management to address.

Yet in his essay, Mr. Warrick criticizes his past client -- the zoo's management -- for not addressing the issue "for years," for "retreating and ignoring the problem," and for allowing the situation to grow into a "cancer," though he said that by working with him they were taking steps in the right direction.

He also wrote that "the stage for a typical workplace violence incident was brewing," and that some employees stated that "their physician had put them on Prozac in order to deal with this stress."

Mr. Warrick declined to say how many Toledo contacts he has or how many people he sent the essay to.

READ MORE: Meeting tomorrow to begin panel's review of zoo actions

READ MORE: Crisis at the Zoo

In his six-page essay, "Oh! How We Love Our Bullies," he wrote: "I have a fascinating story for you ... but it is one of utter failure and manipulation. It is one of the few tyrants ruling the quiet many. It is a tale of a lost war, and the casualties are still being counted. We lost this war for one reason: There were not enough knights who were willing to fight, and the ones who did were left to perish."

Zoo officials said Friday Mr. Warrick was brought in to help fix "internal communication and HR issues," and concluded that, "on the advice of legal counsel, we should not comment on Scott Warrick or the quality of his work for the Toledo Zoo."

Zoo spokesman Andi Norman said yesterday that zoo officials have no further comment.

Mr. Warrick said he has been getting death threats and had one Toledo client cancel him following a story in The Blade on Sunday about his work at the zoo.

His termination occurred following Blade reporters' questions concerning his role in recent disciplinary warnings aimed at past senior zoo veterinarian Dr. Tim Reichard and members of the mammal department.

In his e-mail, Mr. Warrick claims The Blade attacked the zoo. Mr. Warrick said he was "disappointed" by the zoo's decision to fire him. "I'm taking them down this trail, I turn around, and they're not there," he said. "It was a God awful mess, and you can't fix it now."

"For management to stand up and say, 'we have had no problems, everything is fine,' is not true, just as it's not true at any organization," Mr. Warrick added. "All I care about is trying to make that organization better for all employees."

This is not the first time Mr. Warrick criticized a former client in a public forum.

After interviewing employees at the city of Reynoldsburg, Mr. Warrick confronted city council members with a report critical of their employee relations practices. When they reacted by questioning his report, and, according to Mr. Warrick, "disintegrated into a mob," Mr. Warrick e-mailed a 14-page retort to his entire mailing list, calling the council members "bullies," stupid, and urging recipients to help vote them out of office.

The consultant recently confronted members of the mammal department with a report criticizing them as "bullies," and telling them they were seen as "venomous" by other employees.

One mammal department keeper, who declined to be named, said yesterday Mr. Warrick had things reversed.

"He pretty much hits the nail on the head" as far as problems in the zoo are concerned, "but it's the absolute reverse. He has the bullies and the victims flip-flopped," the keeper said.

The keeper said it was "absurd to say we ... can make anything happen or bully anyone. We're so suppressed as a group, that we can barely do our job at this point.

"It's also insulting that they think we have nothing better to do than play these games all day. We have careers. We're professionals. We just want to do our jobs and do our jobs well. It's just really insulting," the keeper said.

The consultant's reports on the mammal department do not include how many people he spoke to, whether he worked from standard questions, how he weighed the results his survey revealed, or if he used statistical methods.

The mammal department's 22 full-time employees take care of the zoo's apes, great cats, bears, elephants, and all hoofed animals.

Mr. Warrick's zoo essay repeats a statistic he used in his earlier reports: "Interestingly enough, 100 percent of those employees who were interviewed that worked in other departments described these 'bullies' as being 'rabid' and 'spreading venom.' Every one of these employees said they would never want to work in this department with these bullies."

But the keeper said: "Who believes that? I socially know quite a few people in other departments," and many said they were never interviewed by Mr. Warrick. Of the ones who were "none said he asked if they would want to be part of the mammal department."

The keeper said: "He doesn't validate his 100 percent. Maybe he talked to one or two people."

The consultant was also involved in disciplinary actions against Dr. Reichard, who was fired in February by zoo administrators. Dr. Reichard received a letter from Mr. Warrick warning him of possible termination, in which Mr. Warrick cited the example of an Ohio fireman who was good at his job but did not follow his employer's directives.

The fireman was terminated, and "no other fire department in the state will touch him. (He is now a salesman in Delaware, Ohio, and financially destroyed.)," the letter states.

When asked whether he thought the zoo's administration would object to the airing of their internal problems Mr. Warrick said he owed it to zoo employees to get the information out.

"I think I have a right to stand up and say what it is that happened," Mr. Warrick said. "Nothing that I printed is confidential. It's a matter of public record -- it's the truth. But no, I don't think they'll have a problem with it."

Zoo board president Stephen Staelin did not return calls.

Science writer Jenni Laidman contributed to this report.

Contact Tad Vezner at: tvezner@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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