Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and area advocates headed to Olympia last week to speak out at a public hearing in support of a proposed measure that would require organizations that use tax payer funding, like Woodland Park Zoo, to be subject to Washington State’s Public Records and Open Meetings Act.
Last month, State Representative Gerry Pollet introduced HB 1425, titled “Ensuring that entities performing government functions and advisory committees are subject to the open public meetings act and public records act.” The measure was referred to the House State Government Committee.
Elephant advocates attended the Committee meeting wearing orange T-shirts and badges that say “TRANSPARENCY.”
The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a much publicized debacle in December in which Woodland Park Zoo barred the media and dozens of elephant advocates from attending a Zoo Board meeting. It also follows multiple refusals by the zoo to provide records pertaining to the zoo’s elephant program in response to records requests submitted by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants. Most recently, the zoo refused to provide information on future plans for elephants Bamboo and Chai, despite overwhelming public interest. A lawsuit Friends filed last year seeking a court order declaring that the Woodland Park Zoological Society be made subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act is under appeal.
“Woodland Park Zoo is happy to take millions of tax payer dollars every year, but continues to operate under a shroud of secrecy. This is unacceptable,” said Friends co-founder, Alyne Fortgang. “Thanks to Rep. Gerry Pollet, organizations like the Zoo that stubbornly cling to the notion that they can conduct business with impunity, will be held accountable under this measure.”