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City of El Paso responds to statements made by the El Paso Zoological Society

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The City of El Paso has responded to statements made by the El Paso Zoological Society, where the Society said the City demanded unrestricted access to their funds, something the City says they never did.

The City said they are asking the Society to account for and transfer the funds it holds after the licensing agreement between the City and the Society expired.

Mayor Oscar Leeser said in a news release sent by the City:

“The funds raised must directly benefit the zoo and fulfill their intended purpose. Transparency and accountability are vital, and we urge the Zoological Society to work with us to resolve these matters responsibly. We remain committed to finding a solution that supports the zoo's mission and serves the best interest of our citizens."

The Zoological Society is opposing the City's request for the accounting and transfer of funds, with the Society claiming the city has no legal basis now that the contract has expired. The City is now saying it is the Society's obligation to do so to be used for their intended purpose.

Under the previous licensing agreement, the Society would sell zoo memberships. The Society would retain 75% of the money from the sales and use it for the betterment of the zoo, projects, and Society operations. The other 25% would be used for zoo operations and promotions.

The Society had said they did not have to turn over its remaining funds to the City since the Society says the agreement does not mention that the funds must be transferred to the city if the contract ends.

However, the City says they have repeatedly asked the Society for a third-party certified public accountant (CPA) to review the full accounting of funds and expenditures, which they say the Society has declined.

The City also said that on April 19, 2024, the Society proposed a donation agreement of $146,693.57, money the City says would be incorrect to classify as a "donation" since all the money collected by the Society during the licensing agreement were not all donations, and the City believes this appears to be only a portion of the funds that the City says should be given back.

The City said their next step will be receiving legal advice during Executive Session on Monday, April 19.

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Tony Gutierrez


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