Lowry Park Zoo president resigns

12/18/08 Seán Kinane
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Embattled Lowry Park Zoo president Lex Salisbury has resigned. He made the decision this afternoon at a five-hour zoo board meeting at the Mainsail Suites Hotel in West Tampa.

Salisbury has been criticized because of questions regarding his for-profit business called Safari Wild. He came under even more scrutiny following a scathing 60-page audit report released last week by the city of Tampa.

According to the city audit, Salisbury owes the zoo more than $200,000 for such things as $700 dinners, a trip to Paris and other questionable expenses. Merritt said the Board would not turn over results of the audit to law enforcement, but it was up to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to do that.

Santiago Corrada is a zoo board member and is administrator of Neighborhood Services with the city of Tampa. He thinks Iorio will follow through.

Merritt said Deputy Zoo Director Craig Pugh would replace Salisbury as interim zoo director. Salisbury’s position paid $339,000 per year. Merritt said Salisbury did not get a severance package “at this time.”

When this story broke earlier this year, questions about who approved transactions including the sale and lending of animals between the zoo and Salisbury’s private business came to the forefront. The board’s previous chair, Fassil Gabremariam resigned from the board in October. Merritt said transactions were approved by the chair.

In a previous statement, Merritt had said the Executive Committee had reviewed all the transactions and found nothing improper. Merritt said the zoo board has instituted new policies to make sure there are not similar problems in the future.

While Lex Salisbury was being grilled by the board, his wife was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty for leaving two dogs inside their vehicle in the parking lot.

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