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02/02/05 - Kagan loses zoo funding post

Kagan loses zoo funding post


His position as director remains unaffected, but he's out of other duties

February 2, 2005



In an abrupt shake-up, Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan has been ousted as head of the nonprofit fund-raising arm of the zoo that he has led since 2001.

Board members of the Detroit Zoological Society, which raises close to $7 million annually in contributions, grants and other funding for zoo promotion and projects, asked Kagan to step down late last week, according to zoo society officials and others familiar with the situation.

The change does not affect Kagan's status as zoo director -- a post appointed by Detroit's mayor.

Also on Monday, Steve Horn, chief operating officer of the zoological society, was told to clear out his desk, even though he had planned to leave voluntarily on Feb. 15. "I tendered my resignation in November, with a 90-day notice," said Horn, who said he was pleased with his job but ready to move on after 3 1/2 years. "But they asked me not to complete it, so I am no longer there."

The move makes room for a consolidation of authority for longtime society chairwoman Ruth Glancy. She will head a newly created office of the chairman, which will incorporate many of Kagan's previous duties.

"Given the challenging financial situation in the City of Detroit, which provides critical funding for the zoo, we need to develop more expansive sources of funding," Glancy said.

Kagan said he will remain as a consultant for the society, continuing to collect the $36,000 annual salary that he earned as its CEO. He also earns $140,000 as zoo director, a salary that is expected to be trimmed 10 percent this year as part of city budget cutting.

People familiar with the situation said friction between Glancy and Kagan has grown during the past several years over Kagan's management style, budget concerns and communication breakdowns. Declining zoo attendance and fund-raising challenges have contributed to the friction, said people who asked not to be named because they work for the zoo or the society and fear reprisals.

Glancy said that such speculation is unfounded: "That's absolutely untrue, Ron and I have been in lockstep with fund-raising," she said Tuesday. "Everybody on the board thinks the world of Ron. This is a positive thing, and it's unfortunate if anyone is trying to make it other than that."

Kagan declined to discuss specific areas where he might have disagreed with Glancy or the board, but conceded that fund-raising and attendance woes have been persistent concerns. "It's been a challenge, as it has for everyone in the nonprofit arena," he said.

Last year, zoo attendance was down five percent, to about 1 million visitors, zoo officials said Tuesday.

Kagan said the change, which became effective Monday after a meeting with Glancy, came as no surprise. "It was worked out late last week," he said.

The Detroit Zoological Society is run by a board of directors that reads like a who's-who of metro Detroit business tycoons and community leaders. The well-connected group raised $6.8 million and had net assets of $16.8 million in 2003, the last year for which figures were available, according to nonprofit financial data filed by the society.

The shake-up is the latest in a tumultuous year for Kagan, whose months-long battle with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association over the fate of two Detroit Zoo elephants made international news.

Kagan, who suggested zoos are not appropriate places for elephants in captivity, gained permission to send the animals to a sanctuary in California, which will happen once the cold weather breaks.

Contact HUGH McDIARMID JR. at 248-351-3295 or