Elephants in taxpayers' living room

November 1st, 2011 by Amy Categories: health care One Response
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Did you get a thank note from the Denver Zoo for your donation? You should have because Colorado taxpayers, and likely taxpayers from across the country,”donated” above and beyond the amount that the seven county, Denver Metro area taxpayers approved with their yes vote to fund the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).

In 2008, the Governor’s Energy Office agreed to “donate” $100,000 “to support research and development of the zoo’s biomass gasification system planned to heat and power portions of the zoo’s next major exhibit, Asian Tropics.” We found two payments from the GEO to the Zoological Foundation totaling close to that six figure sum in our spreadsheet for GEO miscellaneous expenditures and on the Transparency Online Project. The GEO is funded with taxpayer money from both the state and federal government.

Perhaps you can feel good about your “donation” because the goal of the Denver Zoo is to be the “greenest zoo in the world.”

The GEO isn’t the only state agency donating. A search of Colorado’s transparency database TOPs shows the following state payments to the Denver Zoo:


  • Division of Wildlife gave the Denver Zoo a $260,000 grant
  • Department of Human Services spent $3,992.34 on “official functions” and “other purchased services.”
  • Department of Public Health and Environment spent $1,000 on “official functions.”
  • Department of Public Health and Environment spent $500 on “miscellaneous fees and fines.”
  • Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) spent $1,000 on “miscellaneous fees and fines.”

If you are wondering why the Denver Zoo is fining the CDPHE to the tune of $1,500 over the last two fiscal years, so is COST. That’s a major problem with Colorado’s transparency database — no explanation, no context.  If COST and taxpayers want more information on what fees and fines were paid by taxpayers to the Denver Zoo, it’s likely we’d have to incur the additional expense of submitting a CORA request.  It’s analogous to buying dinner and having the restaurant charge you for an itemized receipt.

The good news is that the Denver Zoo is offering a free day this Sunday, November 6. Can’t get there? Too bad. Perhaps you can just imagine an elephant in your living room.

  1. [...] found more questionable spending including a six figure donation to the Denver Zoo so it can be the “greenest zoo” in the country and payments to lobbyists. At the end of our report, we recommend a full audit of the [...]