Dane County aims to create trust fund to manage money for zoo

Dane County aims to create trust fund to manage money for zoo

Dane County wants to create a trust fund to help provide financial support for the Henry Vilas Zoo.

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 March 31.

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.

In a press release, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the creation of a trust fund will make it so that there’s a “clear understanding of how dollars raised to this point for the zoo are allocated moving forward.”

Under their current agreement, dollars raised by the society must now be allocated into a new zoo trust, according to Sunday’s release.

“Once placed in trust, those funds can only be spent to support zoo operations and the outstanding financial obligations of the Society. Decisions on how those dollars are appropriated from the trust will be made jointly between the Society and Dane County,” said Parisi in the release.

This will ensure that paychecks for society employees do not stop March 31. Severance packages will be negotiated between the society and its employees.

The press release also said the zoo will announce the hiring of a national consultant this week. The consultant will help with the transition to find a new fundraising partner.

“Given some of the issues uncovered in the past several weeks, it’s important a structure be put in place to ensure the best cooperative relationship possible between the zoo and any future support organization,” said the release.

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.

Once the consultant completes a report on best practices for an effective partnership with a fundraising group, the county will review a proposal from the society to continue their partnership.

The county is asking for the society’s help during the transition, including providing access to contact information for zoo volunteers and the zoo’s website and social media accounts.

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