The Cincinnati Zoo announced Wednesday that it will pay $955,000 to settle a civil lawsuit accusing it of overcharging zoo visitors, including children, for tickets at the zoo’s new Coronado Springs Zoo.
The settlement includes $250,000 in civil penalties and $225,000 for a separate lawsuit filed in the state supreme court in 2015.
Zoo officials acknowledged in a statement that the settlement was the result of a “truly unprecedented” number of tickets issued in 2015 and 2016.
The zoo said it expects to pay the settlement before the end of the year.
“We have worked hard to address our ticketing and ticketing issues, and have always valued our customers,” said Mike Zawadzki, president and CEO of Cincinnati Zoo.
“The Coronadans lawsuit is an egregious attack on our core values and on the trust our visitors have in us to run a zoo in a way that will be safe and humane.”
The zoo is the third largest in the nation, with about 4,000 animals, and it has struggled financially since closing in 2016.
In its statement, the zoo said the settlement includes money to pay for renovations and improvements at the park and the purchase of more tickets.
Zawamis statement did not address the $75,000 fine, which was issued in 2016 and could have been a $10,000 penalty.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by an unnamed citizen who alleged that the zoo overcharged him for admission, and he alleged that he was subjected to “unnecessary and discriminatory conduct” in the ticket sales process.
The complaint said Zawami’s wife and daughter were also denied admission to the Coronadera Springs Zoo in 2019.
Zawaadziki said Wednesday that he has received hundreds of emails and phone calls from people across the country who were disappointed by the settlement.
He added that the Cincinnati Zoo is working to improve its ticketing processes and that zoo employees and guests can get in touch with them.
He said zoo officials will be releasing a new ticketing system in 2018 that will include more transparency and information on the prices paid for tickets.
“This settlement is a positive step forward in the process and we are excited to have it resolved,” Zawadi said.
Zawski said he is confident that the Corondas lawsuit will be resolved.
He also said the zoo has been working with the Coroner’s Office to find the cause of death of the victim.
The Coronadian lawsuit alleged that zoo visitors were denied admission and subjected to discriminatory behavior by the zoo staff and its employees.
The case was filed under the name of Michael J. Lauterbach, who had been in charge of ticketing for the zoo for more than 10 years.
In a statement, Lauters family said that the family is “deeply saddened” by the news.
The family said they are “deepened by the outpouring of support we have received from Cincinnati and all surrounding areas.”
The family of another man who died at the Corontadans zoo in 2018, William A. Miller, said they were devastated by the death.
Miller was in charge at the Cincinnati zoo for about seven years and died in June 2018, the family said in a written statement.
“William and his family are deeply saddened by the passing of William A., the only son who served as our Zoo Director and was loved and respected by our visitors,” the statement said.
“He loved his animals, his family and his community.”
In the statement, Miller’s family said he had been working in the Coronial Zoo since 1985.
“Mr. Miller would never knowingly violate the sanctity of the Coronda Springs Zoo and the Cincinnati Zoological Society and would never tolerate any misconduct in our Zoo,” the family added.
“His death is a tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Miller.”
Zawads family also issued a statement saying they are still working with their lawyers to try to reach an agreement with the zoo.
Zawarzki said in his statement that he is grateful for the outpourings of support he received from the public and zoo visitors.
He continued to support the zoo and its staff in the wake of the death of Miller.
He expressed regret that the lawsuit was brought and said that he believes the zoo will be in good hands.
“I am confident the zoo is in good shape,” Zawarzi said.
In February, the Ohio House voted to amend Ohio law to address ticketing at the state’s public zoo facilities, a move that would make the Coroneladans’ lawsuit moot.
A House panel also approved legislation that would allow the state to enforce a state law against ticketing violations at the parks.
The House also voted to create a task force to look into ticketing problems at Cincinnati Zoo, which would include a zoo official and other zoo employees.