August 05, 2022
County Board Chair Patrick Miles, (608) 886-9167
County Board

The Dane County Personnel and Finance Committee met last night and approved a bid waiver to hire recently retired Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn to conduct an independent investigation at the Henry Vilas Zoo.

The County Board approved a resolution in June that established an independent investigation of the zoo, to be led by a retired Circuit Court Judge.

The investigation will take place over the coming weeks and will include a review of:

  • allegations of racism by zoo management
  • allegations of retaliation for union activity
  • allegations of retaliation for whistleblowing
  • allegations that employees have been unequally disciplined
  • allegations that animals at the zoo have been neglected or mistreated
  • allegations that zoo employees have left their jobs due to a hostile work environment

"With the approval from the Committee, we can begin this important and needed investigation.  I’m confident in Judge Bailey-Rihn as the special investigator," said County Board Chair Patrick Miles. "She is uniquely qualified to provide an impartial, frank review of the allegations at the Zoo."

According to the bid waiver, Judge Bailey-Rihn graduated at the top of her law school class and worked with Quarles and Brady immediately following law school graduation in 1991. She was partner at Quarles & Brady from October 1, 2000, until she went on the bench in 2016. As a former practicing Certified Public Accountant, her strengths were in understanding business systems and processes. At Quarles, she worked with businesses to resolve disputes, improve processes, and modify procedures.

Additionally, she did special investigations for companies concerned about events that needed to be disclosed on their public filings, and was hired by a special litigation committee of a publicly held company to investigate allegations against the principal owner. Although her practice was not primarily in the area of labor law, by nature of her career, many of the cases she was involved in also had labor or personnel issues.

Judge Bailey-Rihn can now begin the work that is expected to be completed with a written report as early as October 1, 2022.