New Brunswick

Cherry Brook Zoo sued for wrongful dismissal by Leonard Collrin

Leonard Collrin is suing the Cherry Brook Zoo and its board of trustees for unjust dismissal, defamation and damage to property.

Zoo founder and director evicted from home on zoo property after 37 years

Len Collrin is suing the Cherry Brook Zoo for wrongful dismissal and defamation. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Leonard Collrin is suing the Cherry Brook Zoo and its board of trustees for unjust dismissal, defamation and damage to property.

Collrin, 69, who founded the zoo 37 years ago, was let go by the zoo in July.

Collrin and his wife Lynda Collrin, who lived in a building on the zoo property, were evicted from their home in July. Collrin was a paid employee of the zoo and his wife worked as a volunteer.

Zoo lawyer John Gills said "it's not surprising that Mr. Collrin would take that step."

"When a person leaves their job they likely resort to all avenues to find out and to seek some redress, but it will play out in time before the courts in one fashion or another."

The zoo's board has not received the court documents, but Gills said they plan on vigorously defending the allegations.

The lawsuit states the zoo asked the couple "to move and live permanently on the zoo's property in 1979."

The arrangement was supposed to be temporary but they ended up staying and raised their family there.

80-hour work weeks

"Collrin worked more than 80 hours a week" and his wife worked voluntarily.

The statement of claim alleges that the zoo's board of trustees "acted maliciously" when evicting the Collrins from their home by having police present.

The allegations contained in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Financial questions

The lawsuit comes after the board of trustees had asked the Saint John Police Force to investigate "possible financial irregularities."

The court document states that Collrin was not given any explanation regarding the accusation.

In the statement of claim, Collrin said because the zoo was unable to obtain its own credit or credit cards, the Collrins used their personal credit cards to help finance the day-to-day operations at the zoo and were then reimbursed by the zoo.

Collrin did not sign any cheques on behalf of the zoo as cheques where signed by two of the zoos trustees.

The police investigation is still ongoing.

Trustees named as defendants in the lawsuit are Dr. Stephen Justason, James M. Grant, Cathy Holmes, Maria Conway, Dr. John Acker and Alice O'Neill.