Fired Toledo Zoo veterinarian Tim Reichard will get his "day in court" today when he makes his case for reinstatement before the zoo's board of directors.
Dr. Reichard, who was dismissed Feb. 28 after 22 years with the zoo, said he is confident he will be returned to his post as head veterinarian after board members hear his side of the story. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. and will be closed to the public and the media.
Dr. Reichard said he believes he was demoted and eventually fired after he spoke candidly to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials during a zoo inspection last year. He told them about animal care problems at the zoo.
Zoo officials have maintained that he was terminated because of concerns about his "administrative and management style."
Dr. Reichard plans to make himself available for one-on-one discussions with board members and present a series of documents during today's meeting. "I'm expecting them to be very open and very attentive to what I have to say," said Dr. Reichard, who has been contacted by three board members since his firing.
"I feel once they get a chance to hear what I have to say and ask me some questions, I'm sure they'll reinstate me," he said.
Zoo board president Stephen Staelin late last week called for a special meeting of the zoo board to give Dr. Reichard what he said would be "his day in court."
Dr. Reichard received a letter Friday from Robert Harden, the zoo's chief operating officer, notifying him that the administrators responsible for the firing had asked the board to allow the veterinarian a chance to speak in front of the committee.
Dr. Reichard initially said he couldn't attend the meeting because his attorney had a prior commitment out of town. After learning that the meeting would not be rescheduled for a few weeks, Dr. Reichard decided it would be best to attend the meeting alone.
"I will have my family present, which have been excellent counsel for me for many years," he said.
If his wish is granted, Dr. Reichard said he isn't worried about how he will be received.
"The majority of the staff by far is great to work with," he said. "What could be better than working as a veterinarian at the zoo? I look forward to going back."
In addition to the zoo board's inquiry into the firing, the Lucas County commissioners are initiating a citizens task force to examine the operations of Toledo's famed 104-year-old zoo.
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