Aquarium chair: Dressing-room video wasn’t ‘boys being boys’

Aug 16, 2021, 9:39 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2021, 9:55 am

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — When a high-ranking woman at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium spotted a security camera in a room where visiting workers changed clothes, it should have prompted a swift investigation and an apology to the women who were “accidentally and unintentionally” recorded, but instead it was hushed up for six months, an internal investigation found.

The law firm that conducted this investigation decided it wasn’t necessary to request a criminal investigation, board of directors chairman Paul Auslander said, and none of the women who were recorded has filed a complaint, but Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said he’s assigning officers to evaluate the case, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Two aquarium executives watched the video before deleting it, but they were just trying to figure out what to do with the recording, the law firm determined, according to Auslander.

“It was a huge, colossal mistake, but it wasn’t boys being boys,” Auslander said. “I’m sickened that this happened and it’s not going to happen ever again.”

The situation began when chief veterinarian Shelly Marquardt informed operations director Chris Dalton about the camera on Dec. 28. Dalton said that when he returned to work on Jan. 4, he spotted Mike Hurst, vice president of operations and zoological care, watching a video of the women in his office. Hurst told him he had already showed it to CEO Frank Dame, and tried to get him to watch it, too, Dalton said.

Dalton said he declined, and then Hurst said that “if I ever told anyone about Frank (Dame) and him watching the videos, then he would fire me,” according to the June 14 email he sent to the chairman of the board.

“I didn’t have anyone I felt I could go to,” Dalton said in an interview. “I had this burden on me for six months.”

Only when Dalton got another job outside Florida did he alert Auslander, who hired the law firm to investigate. It interviewed 15 current and former employees and did a forensics analysis of computers, phones and iPads of five employees before concluding that the recording was not intentional and the viewing was a case of Hurst and Dame wondering what they should do, the newspaper reported.

The forensics analysis also found that the video was not copied before it was deleted, Auslander added.

Hurst resigned on July 31 while on paid leave amid the investigation, and the organization is evaluating whether discipline for other employees is necessary, he said.

The room where the women changed clothes was described as a utility room near the dolphin tank. Auslander said they’re trying to determine why a camera was there in the first place. Hurst, who had worked there for 11 years, was in charge of the camera program, which is “one of the reasons Mike Hurst is not there anymore,” Auslander said.

Hurst did not respond to attempts to reach him and Dame deferred comment to Auslander; a representative of the workers who were recorded also declined to comment, the newspaper reported.

The aquarium is nearing completion of an $80 million expansion at its facility, which includes new dolphin pools, new guest space and expanded education and hospital facilities.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden listens as French President Emmanuel Macron speaks before a toast during a Stat...
Associated Press

Germany welcomes Biden comments in trade dispute

BERLIN (AP) — Germany on Friday welcomed President Joe Biden’s apparent willingness to discuss tweaking U.S. legislation that European leaders say unfairly discriminates against their industries. Biden acknowledged during a visit to Washington by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday that there were “glitches” in the Inflation Reduction Act, which favors American-made climate technology for […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian embassies and consulates in six European countries have received packages containing animals’ eyes in recent days, a Ukrainian official said Friday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko wrote on Facebook that the “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embasses in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, as well as […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US cancels trip by LGBTQ envoy to Indonesia after objection

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The United States has canceled a trip to Indonesia by a special envoy on LGBTQ rights after the country’s most influential Islamic group objected to the visit. Special envoy Jessica Stern was to have visited Indonesia next week as part of a trip to Southeast Asia. The Indonesian Ulema Council issued […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Israeli peace activists show presence in West Bank hot spot

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) — Dozens of Israeli peace activists toured the occupied West Bank’s largest city Friday in a show of solidarity with Palestinians, amid chants of “shame, shame” from ultra-nationalist hecklers. The encounter in the center of Hebron signaled the widening rift among Israelis over the nature of their society and Israel’s open-ended […]
1 day ago
FILE — South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at 10 Downing Street to meet Britain's Pr...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Why South Africa’s president might lose his job

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s president might lose his job, and his reputation as a corruption fighter, as he faces possible impeachment over claims that he tried to cover up the theft of millions of dollars stashed inside a couch on his farm. The allegations brought by a political rival have led to a damning […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Greece: Italian embassy vehicle destroyed in firebombing

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — An overnight arson attack destroyed a car used by a senior official at the Italian embassy in Athens, an incident that authorities in Greece and Italy condemned Friday. Italian Prime Minister Premier Giorgia Meloni offered solidarity to the official and expressed “profound concern for the attack against her, probably of an […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Aquarium chair: Dressing-room video wasn’t ‘boys being boys’