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National Aviary in Pittsburgh fires executive director

Mike Mancini | Tribune-Review - Pat Mangus during Night at the Tropics at the National Aviary on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Mike Mancini | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pat Mangus during Night at the Tropics at the National Aviary on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
- Pat Mangus, executive director of the National Aviary Aimee Obidzinski | Tribune-Review
Pat Mangus, executive director of the National Aviary Aimee Obidzinski  |  Tribune-Review

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Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 2:56 p.m.
 

The National Aviary's trustees ousted its executive director over a “difference of opinion,” less than four years after the previous director resigned for much the same reason.

Patrick T. Mangus Jr. headed the renowned bird zoo in the city's North Side beginning in early 2009 when he replaced CEO Linda Dickerson. She stepped down during the first phase of a $23 million expansion.

The decision to oust Mangus was made at a board meeting on Wednesday, said board president Anthony R. Bridge.

“The board agreed that we should discontinue him. His services are no long needed at the aviary. There is a difference of opinion about how the aviary should be operated,” Bridge said. He would not elaborate, saying, “It would not be fair to him or to the aviary.”

Mangus could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Bridge declined to answer questions about whether Mangus received severance pay. He earned $120,680 annually, according to charitynavigator.org.

The board named chief operating officer Cheryl Tracy as the aviary's interim executive director.

The aviary's website says its collection includes more than 600 birds of more 200 species from around the world. It operates on an annual budget of almost $3.9 million.

Mangus, 63, joined the aviary in 2007 as chief operating officer. A graduate of Ohio University, he worked for many years in public relations, was a board member of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, and volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

When Dickerson resigned, she raised concerns about the aviary board's willingness to operate transparently, provide access for people with disabilities and promote diversity.

At the time, Dickerson said she fought with the board to make a penguin exhibit accessible for people in wheelchairs. She cautioned that the aviary might need to scale back its expansion plan because of the weak economy.

The aviary has roots in the late 19th century as part of Pittsburgh's first plant conservatory. The city rebuilt it 1952. It's one of the few zoos in the country to display birds in free-flight rooms.

When city budget cuts threatened to close the institution in 1991, Save the Aviary Inc., a private nonprofit corporation, formed. It became a private entity in 1992. A year later, by declaration of Congress, the Pittsburgh Aviary earned honorary national status and changed its name to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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