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Published: 3/31/2005

Web site created to back zoo operations

BY TAD VEZNER AND STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Less than two weeks after the creation of a Web site calling for the reinstatement of ex-zoo veterinarian Dr. Tim Reichard, a group of unknown Toledo Zoo supporters have created their own Web site in response to what they see as wavering public support for the institution.

The Web site, www.sup port thezoo.org, put out by a group calling itself Friends of the Zoo, starts out with the concern: Recent events at the Toledo Zoo have prompted many members and supporters to question whether they will continue to support the Toledo Zoo by way of membership renewals, donations, and levy support.

The zoo s 10-year, 1-mill capital levy, which raised around $5.7 million for the institution last year, is set to expire at the end of this year. Zoo officials are gearing up for a levy campaign this year, but Lucas County commissioners not zoo officials must decide whether to place such a levy on the November ballot.

The Web site goes on: This site s mission is to present a forum which allows visitors to express their opposing viewpoints concerning these recent events and those which may be contrary to current media coverage.

The site contains a disclaimer saying it is not officially supported or sanctioned by the Toledo Zoo. The site s registration record states only the registrant s organization Friends of the Zoo but gives no name, address, or phone number for the individual behind the organization.

We have nothing to do with its content, but people are free to express their support, and we welcome people s support, said zoo spokesman Andi Norman yesterday.

Earlier this month, a group calling itself The Friends of Dr. Tim created the site, www.DoctorTim.org, which called for the reinstatement of the 22-year senior zoo veterinarian and provided a forum to discuss his firing.

Dr. Reichard was terminated from his job in late February because of what zoo officials claim were administrative issues, while Dr. Reichard said he was fired for speaking frankly to U.S. Department of Agriculture investigators during a surprise inspection last year about animal deaths and animal-care issues at the zoo.

In some ways, the new Web site is akin to the site supporting Dr. Reichard, offering links to letters of support, and saying it will soon sell bumper stickers stating I Support the Toledo Zoo, as opposed to the pro-Reichard site s bumper stickers stating Reinstate Dr. Tim.

The Friends of the Zoo, however, stress on their site they re steering clear of the controversy surrounding Dr. Reichard, saying they won t publish any letters representing support for the Zoo Administration or the Head Veterinarian.

We will only post e-mails which do not show support towards either side in the recent disputes, it states. It is the intent of this site to provide support for the zoo as a whole entity.

The second meeting of a task force appointed by county commissioners to examine problems and procedures at the zoo will convene today. Zoo Executive Director William Dennler is expected to make a presentation to the 14-member committee to explain the structure of the zoo.

We want to try and get a feeling about their organizational structure, how decisions are made, the interaction between directors and the board, said Robert Reinbolt, who is leading the task force. We need to understand how the process is supposed to take place.

That will give us a good basis when we meet with employees.

Today s meeting will be held at 3 p.m. at the Lucas County Emergency Medical Services Training Center, 2127 Jefferson Street in Toledo, across from Mercy Hospital. The meeting is open to the public.

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



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