ROYAL OAK -- Ron Kagan, the
longtime director of the Detroit Zoo, could
face disciplinary action, including possible
firing, over accusations that he lied on his
resume about having a doctorate degree.
"I feel terrible. It's difficult to face
now," the 55-year-old Kagan said Thursday
after admitting he lied on his resume.
"I'm sorry and I know it's damaged the
The resume flap began June 21 when
members of the Detroit Zoo Society's board
of directors received an anonymous faxed
letter stating that Kagan had misrepresented
his academic qualifications, said Patricia
Mills, zoo spokeswoman.
The nine-person executive committee of
the zoo's board of directors is scheduled to
meet today to decide whether to recommend
action to the full board, said Gail Warden,
the chairman of the board of directors for
the Zoological Society.
Kagan could lose his $175,000-a-year job,
be suspended or be forced to take a cut in
pay, Warden said.
"Initially I was skeptical because it was
an anonymous letter but at the same time, we
had to pursue it," he said.
Kagan began work on his doctorate at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem during the
mid-1980s. Kagan said he thought he was
finished and when he realized that he was 99
percent done, he went back in the early
1990s to try to wrap up talks with his
advisers about getting it completed. He said
he thought his work was completed, but later
learned that one of his two advisers had not
signed off on his thesis.
"I went back to try to get it signed,
sealed and delivered. At one point, I gave
up. I should have gone back," Kagan said. "I
didn't close the deal."
Warden said the zoo director's job does
not require a doctorate. He said there will
be many factors that will be considered in
the discussions about whether Kagan will
lose his job.
"You have to take into consideration his
track record, (his) many, many
accomplishments and the impact it would have
on the community if we ask him to step
down," Warden said.
"There are a large number of people who
support him who think it would be egregious
to terminate him, but there are others would
argue the integrity" of the zoo, he added.
The resume controversy comes at a
"critical time" for the zoo, Warden said. He
said the zoo will soon be asking voters for
a millage that would fund $8 million to $10
million in operating revenues.
Kagan holds a bachelor's degree in
zoology that he received in 1975 from the
University of Massachusetts. In 1980, he
received a master's degree from Hebrew
University, Mills said.
Warden said he has reviewed all of
Kagan's credentials since last Thursday and
that the zoo has hired an independent
investigator to help the zoo in its probe of
Kagan said he will honor the decision of
the zoo's board of directors.
"The only thing I've ever wanted to do is
fight for the zoo," said Kagan. "I want to
do that as long as the community wants me
Kagan was appointed zoo director in
December 1992 by then-Detroit Mayor Coleman
Young. He has received praises from animal
rights groups and others for his new zoo
exhibits and decisions regarding older
But Detroit City Councilman Kenneth
Cockrel Jr., an appointed member of the zoo
board, said he has "mixed feelings" about
whether Kagan should stay on the job in
light of the resume flap.
He said the controversy might hamper
fundraising efforts because of credibility
"Having his credibility and integrity
called into question would affect
fundraising efforts, so it's an issue," said
Cockrel as he made his way to a private
event at the zoo Thursday evening.
Kagan was scheduled to give remarks
during the affair.
Cockrel said he would withhold judgment
until the outcome of the probe by an
independent attorney. He, however, praised
Kagan as being one of the best zoo directors
in the nation and world, although he said he
didn't agree with his decisions to close the
Belle Isle Zoo and the Belle Isle Aquarium.
"He has done a tremendous job," Cockrel
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