Abilene Zoo Director, Animal Services Director given more than $68,000 to leave the city

Bill Gersonde and Mirenda Walden

The former Abilene Zoo Director and ex-Animal Services Director were given more than $68,000 to leave the city.

That is the combined amount of the severance packages for Bill Gersonde and Mirenda Walden.

Both former city workers have been in the news for their suspicious exits.

KTXS obtained a copy of an internal email written by City Manager Robert Hanna to Mayor Anthony Williams and the city council.

According to the email, former Zoo Director Bill Gersonde and former Animal Services Director Mirenda Walden were "released of all claims and liabilities against the city."

In exchange, Walden received half of her $95,000 annual salary, making her payout $47,500.

Gersonde received $20,834.09, plus an additional $21,000 in consultant fees, in case he is needed during the zoo's accreditation process.

When KTXS requested an interview with Hanna about the severance packages, the city said it does not always issue severance packages but did so because it was in the best "interests of the taxpayer."

By using these agreements we avoid the costs of future litigation in the event a claim is filed against the City. We do not use them all the time, but we do use them when there is not a clear performance concern with the employee but it is in the best interests of the City and the community that the employee separates from the City.

Both Walden and Gersonde were put on paid leave in early November following complaints filed against them by city workers.

Gersonde retired on Nov. 27 and Walden resigned Dec. 4, weeks after the city began an investigation into said complaints.

Hanna detailed the poor atmosphere at the animal shelter during Walden's tenure, saying, "Mirenda's team lost confidence in her ability to lead and no longer wished to follow her." More than half of them were actively looking for a new job, according to the email.

Hanna also addressed social media posts claiming a connection between him and Walden, saying the claim was "not true."

This is a developing story.

We'll have more about the internal memo coming up on KTXS at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.

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