County hires national zoo expert to help during financial transition from nonprofit

County hires national zoo expert to help during financial transition from nonprofit

Dane County will be working with a national zoo expert to help during its financial transition period as it severs ties with the Henry Vilas Zoological Society, according to a release.

The contract between the county and the Henry Vilas Zoological Society, a nonprofit that has been handling fundraising and grounds operations at the zoo, ends Sunday.

The two have been trying to negotiate a new contract for about 10 months, but have not been able to come to an agreement. The county has said it is time to end their long-term relationship and find a new organization to fundraise for the zoo.

County officials said they will be working with Mike Gill, a national consultant with more than 40 years of experience in the zoo and aquarium field, to advise the zoo during the transition.

The zoo also announced that carousel rides will be free through the month of April “as an expression of gratitude to the community’s continuing support of the zoo.”

Gill will help zoo officials choose a team of experts to advise the zoo on national best practices and to secure a potential fundraising partner, according to the release. The HVZS has been encouraged to participate in the process, officials said.

Dane County officials announced of the weekend that they want to create a trust fund to help provide financial support for the zoo.

The HVZS said it remains committed to working with the county and hopes county officials will “take seriously its recently issued proposal that would turn over service operations to Dane County while maintaining its role as exclusive fundraising entity for Henry Vilas Zoo.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the trust fund will make it so that there’s an understanding of how money raised will be allocated going forward.

As the controversy has unfolded over the last week, the county has suggested that money collected by the society was not going directly to the zoo. Recently released documents also show harassment complaints by a society employee against the county’s zoo director.

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