Zoo, Equitas, Shelter Board must regain trust after scandals

A “best zoos in the United States” list cannot be taken seriously unless it includes ours along the eastern banks of the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir on the Scioto River.

Opened in 1927, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is among Ohio’s most renowned institutions. 

It has long held this community’s trust and money. 

Columbus Zoo:Columbus Zoo loses accreditation over animal program, leadership issues, but plans appeal

The nonprofit organization sits on city owned land and draws $19 million of its annual $92 million budget from Franklin County taxpayers. 

More than that, Greater Columbus roots hard for the zoo and wants it to win.

It is for these and other reasons that the board of directors of the zoo — one of three respected Columbus nonprofits now in the middle of embarrassing and disgraceful scandals that have rocked public confidence — must take aggressive action to maintain public trust and support. The board of the other two organizations must do the same and increase and sustain their vigilance.

Jack Hanna and his daughter Julie, left, and wife Suzi, right, hold a trio of  3-week-old baby cheetahs inside the the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's animal programs building in 2018 in this Dispatch file photo.

News that the zoo was stripped of the accreditation it has held since 1980 from the industry’s top accrediting bodies came one day after it named Tom Schmid, president and CEO of the Texas State Aquarium, as its next leader. 

He and the Zoo’s board will have their hands full rebuilding public confidence that they are watchful stewards of our money and are deserving of admiration.

Honesty and transparency to the public will be key with leaders of the zoo, as it will be for leaders of the Community Shelter Board and Equitas Health

Community Shelter Board:Shelter board employee steered over $350,000 to friends who were not landlords

Ebony Wheat, a Community Shelter Board employee has pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft and is awaiting sentencing for cutting $352,769 in checks to friends who were not landlords and did not provide any services to the agency’s homeless clients.