A diverse set of animal lovers, community leaders, and business people will fill the 14-member task force announced yesterday by the Lucas County Commissioners to examine the operations of the Toledo Zoo.
The task force will be charged with examining a number of issues, including the firing of head veterinarian Tim Reichard last month and administrative procedures at the zoo.
Also yesterday, zoo officials terminated their relationship with a consultant who tangled with Dr. Reichard last year. The consultant was let go after reporters began questioning his work at the zoo.
R. Michael Frank, an attorney who was appointed to the task force, said he is keeping an open mind about zoo business.
"What I would hope would come out of it, first of all, is we would identify issues that need to be addressed and hopefully help the zoo become not only a better place to work, but also to provide better service to the public," said Mr. Frank, who also serves on the board of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
The zoo, which is partly funded by Lucas County residents with an $11.4 million tax levy, is governed by the Toledo Zoological Society and has no county oversight.
Commission President Tina Skeldon Wozniak, who called for the task force after county residents raised concerns after the firing of Dr. Reichard, is hopeful the group will convene quickly, possibly as soon as next week.
"It is a good, diverse group that represents folks from business and those who have interest in the animal-care business, as well as the overall well-being of the zoo," Ms. Wozniak said. "When the community asks questions of our stellar institutions, we always should provide answers. I look forward to a hard-working task force that will get the job done."
The task force, which will be led by a former Toledo government administrator Robert Reinbolt, will operate with the support of staffing from the county commissioners office and the Lucas County Office of Management and Budget.
Commissioners charged the task force "with undertaking a review of zoo finances and operations, including animal care, culminating in a report to be issued within 100 days."
The task force includes several members with specialized interests, including Lloyd Mahaffey, a 42-year union representative who knows the ins-and-outs of labor relations.
"I'm a person that doesn't mind asking tough questions or taking tough positions," said Mr. Mahaffey, the United Auto Workers regional director for Ohio. "I'm anxious to see some of the documentation and to talk to some people."
Another member, Dr. Richard Ruppert, a former president of the Medical College of Ohio, said he was not in a position to comment on recent reports about the zoo.
"I have not formed any opinions because I don't know all the details of what's going on," said Dr. Ruppert, an Ohio Historical Society trustee and a former board chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
"We have a superb zoo, and we've seen development of which we should be proud," he said. "I hope to be able to do something to continue that development" as a task force member.
Richard Anderson, chairman of The Andersons, could not be reached for comment.
Marty Skeldon, the son of former zoo director Phil Skeldon, and grandson of Frank Skeldon, an early zoo director and Blade business editor, was selected to serve on the task force.
He said it will be an honor to serve on the task force, especially considering his family's role in the zoo's history.
"I grew up at the zoo," said Mr. Skeldon, a letter carrier for 34 years and a former member of the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The Lucas County Board of Commissioners announced the following appointments yesterday to the citizens task force that will examine procedures at the Toledo Zoo:
Source: Lucas County Commissioners
"We just want to do whatever we can to help the zoo out," he said.
Doug Young, a longtime city employee and zookeeper from 1973 to 1981, was selected to serve on the task force.
He believes his understanding of the role of keepers will be an asset to the task force and he is committed to holding the zoo accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars.
"The situation out there is just a shame," Mr. Young said. "It doesn't do anybody any good."
On Thursday night, Dr. Reichard met with members of the zoo's board of directors to make his case for being reinstated as head veterinarian.
After the meeting, he was confident the board would return him to the job he has held for 22 years.
During the meeting, the board established two committees - one to review Dr. Reichard's firing and the other to examine the zoo's corporate culture.
Yesterday, a human-resources consultant hired by the zoo last year for $145 an hour to analyze workplace problems was released from his duties amid the controversy surrounding the zoo since the firing of Dr. Reichard last month.
Scott Warrick, an attorney from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, chastised Dr. Reichard while observing and interacting with mammal department employees.
Mr. Warrick, who runs a human-resources training and consulting business from the Columbus suburbs, did not return calls seeking comment.
The consultant's dismissal occurred minutes before Blade reporters were scheduled to interview top zoo officials, including Executive Director Bill Dennler, about Mr. Warrick.
Mr. Dennler canceled the interview and released a two-paragraph statement saying: "We have concluded that his services are no longer needed. We have, therefore, terminated our relations with Mr. Warrick."
On the advice of legal counsel, zoo administrators refused to comment on Mr. Warrick or the quality of his work.
Zoo employees complained that Mr. Warrick had inflamed strained tensions at the zoo, especially in the mammal department.
In a document obtained by The Blade, Mr. Warrick took issue with Dr. Reichard in a seven-page letter last fall.
In response to a question posed by Dr. Reichard asking zoo administrators to define the term "animal care," Mr. Warrick wrote, "Are you a veterinarian or not?"
"I would expect such a question to come from a first year veterinarian's assistant not from a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in the state of Ohio," Mr. Warrick wrote.
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