Parisi rips supervisors’ plan to investigate the Henry Vilas Zoo

Dane Co. Supervisors plan to bring in a retired judge to investigate a series of claims, which stretch back for years, against the Henry Vilas Zoo.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 2:59 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2022 at 8:13 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The proposed investigation into allegations made in a recent new report against management at the Henry Vilas Zoo just ran into a strong rebuke from the man now tasked with signing off on the inquiry.

On Thursday night, the Dane Co. Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly backed the probe into allegations in a Wisconsin State Journal report that ranged from mistreatment or neglect of animals at the zoo to racism within the Zoo’s management and people leaving because of a hostile work environment and sent it to Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi for his signature.

Whether or not, Parisi will sign it, however, remains up in the air. A spokesperson for his office told NBC15 News that the county executive is still reviewing the resolution. The response came shortly after a statement by Parisi’s office blasting the proposal, in which he compared it to the state legislature’s ongoing investigation, led by former Justice Michael Gableman, into the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Parisi contended the resolution’s proscriptions for the investigation amounted to a no-bid contract with no public process, saying “Wisconsin’s Gableman Trump election probe was born in the exact same fashion.”

“The lack of transparency and accountability has resulted in hundreds of thousands in legal bills and open records lawsuits,” he continued.

Parisi argued that any investigation into “issues reported by some at the zoo” should be a public process and that people should know who could be tapped to lead the investigation and the selection process. According to the language of the resolution, the investigation would be led by a retired circuit court judge who would be allowed to bill up to $200 per hour. The proposal also capped the cost of the probe at $50,000.

With the resolution on his desk, Parisi has the option to sign it or veto it – at which point the Board of Supervisors, which approved the plan by a 25-7 margin, could attempt an override.

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