City of Tampa's Auditors Blast Zoo Director listen12/12/08 Mitch E. Perry
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An internal audit released today by the City of Tampa blasts Lowry Park Zoo President Lex Salisbury, and suggests that he could be prosecuted criminally for overcharging the zoo for animals he transferred to them and took zoo property to his private business.
At a news conference this afternoon Santiago Corrada , the City of Tampaâ€™s Neighborhood Services Administrator responded to a question if he believed that Salisburyâ€™s actions were illegal (roll tape#1 o.q.â€draw your own conclusion on thatâ€)
Media reports back in April revealed that Salisbury had been running an exotic animal park in Polk County called Safari Wild for the last year.
The conflict of interest was just the start of revelations about Salisbury and Safari Wild,and earlier this month, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums temporarily revoked the accreditation of the zoo.
The preliminary audit does not list a complete price tag as to how much money Salisbury transferred assets from the Zoo, to his own personal business interest, but the report does list the costs of purchasing a group bird consortium purchased for the zoo but transferred to Safari Wild to be $44,975.
(The City of Tampa owns the land where the zoo is situated).
Roger Strout is the the city of Tampaâ€™s internal auditor who reviewed all the transactions between Lowry Park Zoo and Safari Wild. He discussed the animal transactions purchased for the Zoo that Salisbury later sold to Safari Wild, for different prices (roll tape#2 o.q.â€happened hereâ€)
Strout said it was difficult to evaluate the price of animals (roll tape#3 o.q.â€the value of the animals areâ€)
Another finding in the report that there is a culture of fear at the Zoo of openness and transparency. Internal Auditor Roger Strout (roll tape# 4 o.q.â€ and they do not want toâ€)
Salisbury has said he never profited from the transactions with the zoo. He has said his intention was to provide temporary space for the animals who needed space to roam or were displaced by construction.
Next week the Executive Committee of the Zoo will hold a meeting next week to be briefed directly on the cityâ€™s audit findings and decide what to do next regarding Salisbury. City of Tampa employee Santiago Corrada was recently put on that board â€“ he was asked what he will recommend (roll tape#5 o.q.â€and his leadershipâ€)
Initially, the Chairman of the Executive Committee said the zooâ€™s auditors had gone thru transactions with Safari Wild, and found no conflict. Corrada was asked how to reconcile that initial finding with the new report (roll tape#6 o.qâ€would not have looked atâ€)
Salisbury's salary is $271,000. With benefits and bonuses, it is $339,000. He has been on paid suspension of his duties at the zoo.