Oregon Zoo whistleblower: 'They were caught with their pants down'

Oregon Zoo whistleblower: 'They were caught with their pants down' »Play Video
Joey Harp says he was fired from the Oregon Zoo in part for giving police video of a woman seen by others hitting, slapping and pushing a 3-year-old girl (left) without notifying his bosses.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It was a case many of us remember.

A woman was seen by others at the Oregon Zoo hitting, slapping and pushing a 3-year old girl. Police released the video to local media, seeking tips to identify the woman.
A former safety manager at the zoo said turning that video over to police without notifying his bosses led in part to his firing.

Joey Harp said that's just one example of how the zoo has been mismanaged for quite some time. He doesn't regret the decision to turn over the video, but he was surprised at how his bosses at the zoo responded.

"That was the main reason I was let go. They were caught with their pants down," said Harp.

Instead of being praised for quickly alerting law enforcement, Harp says he was written up.

"It was the fact that the zoo had the media show up and they weren't prepared for it because I hadn't notified them," said Harp.

Harp acknowledges he should have notified supervisors that the video was in the hands of police but feels at most he should have been reprimanded. He wasn't expecting to have that as a major part of his termination.

In another case, a child was recorded by a zoo visitor saying concerning things to their parent. Harp says a manager was preoccupied with the zoo's reputation in that situation too.
"It seems to me that we should be making every effort to cooperate and help the police as we can and he's like, 'Well, of course we want to support the police and help them out. We just don't want the zoo being linked with any of this,'" recalled Harp.

In a public records request, the On Your Side Investigators also obtained documents, video and pictures from an Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) probe into an incident at the Oregon Zoo in April 2013. Surveillance video from the zoo's maintenance yard shows multiple zoo managers present as a man climbs on top of a cart that's being moved with a forklift. The cart isn't secured properly, and falls off the forklift. He wasn't hurt, but OSHA cited and fined the Oregon Zoo $14,600.

Harp said when the incident occurred managers offered no reminder and no review of safety procedures in equipment transfer. Moreover, after the OSHA penalty was issued, Harp said a witch hunt was conducted to figure out which employee had turned the video over to OSHA prompting the investigation.

Harp says he hopes new leadership at the zoo will improve the working environment for the co-workers and friends he left behind.

Jim Middaugh, the spokesman for Metro - which runs the zoo – said, "There's additional information in Harp's personnel file which they're not at liberty to share."

Anna Canzano has requested that file.