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Ohio Attorney General Launches Investigation Into Columbus Zoo

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The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will investigate the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the probe from his office's Charitable Law Section on Thursday, April 1, days after two executives at the zoo resigned over allegations of improper use of zoo resources.

“Charity may begin at home for an individual, but it’s trouble when an executive for a charitable organization uses company resources for friends and family,” Yost said in a press release. “I’m troubled by both the allegations and the lack of transparency here, and this office will get to the bottom of it.”

The Columbus Zoo announced Monday that CEO Tom Stalf and CFO Greg Bell stepped down immediately after the board received the results of an investigation from an outside law firm. According to a Columbus Dispatch investigation, Stalf and Bell let relatives live in houses owned by the zoo and got family members free tickets for entertainment events.

The Columbus Zoo is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that also receives taxpayer dollars from Franklin County.

Yost said that the Ohio Attorney General must protect and regulate charities, which includes investigating abuse of charitable trust.

"The mission is carried out by the office's Charitable Law Section, which ensures trust in the nonprofit sector through transparency and accountability," Yost wrote. "The section ensures that charities responsibly use assets entrusted to them and takes enforcement action when charities exploit Ohioans' generosity."

The Ohio Ethics Commission is also considering an investigation into the zoo, but is still reviewing whether the Columbus Zoo falls under its purview.

Former Columbus Zoo executive director Jerry Borin is serving as interim CEO as it starts a national search for a new CEO.