Zoo Executives Violated Numerous Campaign Laws, May Have Used Taxpayer Dollars To Fund Campaign
—East Bay Express, Oct. 18, 2012
An investigative report by the East Bay Express published today indicates that executives of the Oakland Zoo have been found to have violated several election campaign laws, and suggests that they may have illegally commingled taxpayer and campaign funds or used public funds for campaign purposes. According to the story, the posting of numerous campaign signs at the Zoo (which is city property) violated prohibitions on using city property for campaign purposes. This also violated the Zoo’s contract with the city, says the report, which requires that the Zoological Society “shall not use the property for political purposes, including, but not limited to political fundraising and campaigning.”
The full report is available here: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/92510/archives/2012/10/18/oakland-zoo-operators-violate-election-laws
The report also notes that the zoo violated campaign laws by headquartering the campaign on Zoo grounds: “The Zoological Society’s actions are akin to a city councilmember operating his campaign for reelection out of his council office in City Hall, “ says the report.
Perhaps most concerning, the report suggests that the Zoo may have commingled campaign funds with public funds, but notes that “because it’s a private nonprofit, the Zoological Society does not have to fully open its books to the public.”
Since we have tried for years to get more financial information from the Zoo, and have long urged that the public should have the right to know more about the Zoo’s finances before signing a $100 million-plus blank check, we hope that this report will draw closer scrutiny from the media and from those public officials who are supposed to be protecting the interests of the public. We urge you to contact your city and county representatives—many of whom had already endorsed this measure without ever reading the fine print– and demand an independent public investigation into Zoo finances.
Please share this story with others on your listserves, Facebook and Twitter networks, and send letters to the media. Zoo executives have long operated with impunity as though Knowland Park were their private fiefdom, and city representatives have allowed them to do so, despite numerous violations being called to their attention. It’s time for that to change. Maybe a resounding defeat of Measure A1 will wake up the sleeping politicians, too!
UPDATE: On the October 22 broadcast of KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny, the Zoo Director of Strategic Initiatives, Nik Dehejia responded to the East Bay Express Article by blaming “a few excited, eager volunteers” for the illegal campaign signs on zoo property. However, from the pictures posted above, and the Zoo promotional material linked below, it is obvious that these pro-A1 campaign signs, including a large banner on the hillside overlooking 580 represent the work of much more than a few over-exuberant volunteers–this was part of the campaign package deal that the zoo execs signed off on and which was displayed with their approval. If zoo executives can’t even be truthful about their use of campaign signs, how can they be expected to be honest with $125 million of Alameda County tax dollars? Mr. Dehejia did not respond directly to the fact that the Zoo’s A1 campaign headquarters are illegally located on City property.
Articles from the Zoo blog, showing signs illegally posted on City property:
CSU East Bay’s student paper, The Pioneer, with photo of a A1 sign placed in a zoo exhibit:
The caption says, “Signs for ‘Yes on Measure A1’ are strategically placed throughout exhibits in the Oakland Zoo.”
Coming Events: PETA Film Screening and Measure A1 Discussion
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 5:30 pm
Free screening of independent filmmakers David Millett and Julia Buss’s documentary video about Knowland Park
Oakland office of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals)
554 Grand Ave.
While “Knowland” is not a project of the Knowland Park Coalition or the No on A1 Campaign, there is footage of Knowland Park and enlightening interviews with individuals speaking about native plant communities in Knowland Park, the history of the park and of the zoo, park advocates, the PETA spokesperson, and others.
According to an announcement from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is hosting the screening:
“One of the many benefits of living in such a beautiful place is the wide variety of inspiring natural spaces only a short distance from our front doors. One such area is Oakland’s Knowland Park, a city park in the hills that’s home to acres of undisturbed land and a wonderful variety of rare—and sometimes endangered—native plants and animals. Unfortunately, this picturesque spot, which is just a quick jaunt from PETA’s Oakland office, is being threatened. “
RSVP is requested at PETABayArea@peta.org
OUTREACH: Interested in volunteering to help our grassroots campaign? We have teams doing grassroots outreach daily. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.