Detroit Zoo director gets larger paycheck

(WXYZ) - The 7 Action News team has learned the Executive Director and CEO of the Detroit Zoo is getting a fatter paycheck--and if you live in one of the three metro Detroit counties, you're helping pay for it. 

Ron Kagan has gone from a 2011 salary of $284,200 to $470,184 in 2012. 

That included a lump sum of $120,000.  His new base pay is $350,000. 

 "I feel very fortunate. I am doing a job that I love," said Kagan.

The Detroit Zoo is not part of the city it is run as a non-profit by a board of directors elected by paid zoo members.  The board vote on the pay raise was unanimous and based on the rate of pay of Executive Directors at the top zoos in the country. 

The highest paid is in St. Louis followed by New York, Chicago which has two zoos.  Detroit's Kagan was at number 14 but now moved to number 10 on the list.  The Board Chair Gail Warden says Kagan may get more pay raises in the next few years because the Detroit Zoo ranks in the top 5 in the county and "we want to keep him in there". 

Kagan was suspended for a month without pay five years ago for fudging his education on his resume but that has long since been forgiven. 

"As its turned out that has been a very good decision.  We continue to grow" says Warden.  Warden also says the zoo is not trying to hide anything as they post their IRS statements online for transparency and accountability. 

Those statements show none other zoo staff are paid more than $100,000.  The zoo has 3300 animals and a staff of 215 employees.  In 2008, a 3-county millage was passed that pays $11million into the zoo, one-third of its annual budget.

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