Seattle, WA – Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle resident, filed a lawsuit today seeking a court order declaring that the Woodland Park Zoological Society be made subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act.

Fortgang is Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (a local advocacy group) and as such, has filed numerous public records requests to the Zoo for information regarding the health and welfare of the three elephants held there. In many instances the Zoo withheld information, claimed it had no records pertaining to the request, or provided information that later would prove to be grossly inaccurate.

Fortgang asserts that through the 2002 Operating Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Zoo, the Zoo functions as a “hybrid” public agency when it took over running the Zoo as a public park and therefore must comply with Washington State’s Public Records Act.

Through the Operating Agreement the City is required to give the zoo ongoing benefits. Not only are the Zoo’s operations funded with $10.4 million taxpayer dollars, which increases each year, but the Zoo is provided with the use of City-owned buildings and park land at no cost.

“Woodland Park Zoo can’t have it both ways; if it chooses to take our generous tax dollars, then it must be held accountable on how it spends our money,” said Alyne Fortgang. “I am simply asking that the Zoo be transparent with tax payers, which is why public records laws exist.”

A copy of Fortgang’s lawsuit is available here.

Alyne Fortgang is co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a NARN Campaign.  Friends raises awareness about the plight of the three elephants living on display at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Friends hopes the Zoo will make the humane decision to retire Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto to a sanctuary in a warmer climate that would offer them vast spaces to roam.

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