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The former director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe has quit his job as head of the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk amid reports he executed a secret settlement agreement with the Woodward animal shelter before going to Virginia, according to a report in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. J. Chris Peterson, who ran the Woodward center from January 1997 until March 1, 1998, when he resigned, was hired by the Virginia Zoo last spring, the paper said. He departed that job in January of this year after falling out of favor with zoo directors. The newspaper said that the directors and city officials "became concerned" about Peterson's past after finding out about his Woodward settlement, details of which were reportedly sealed. But in a resignation letter quoted by the paper, Peterson blamed meddling by the board members for the dispute that led to his resignation: "There were members of the VZS board who were accustomed to micro-managing the facility and would not or could not let go of the day-to-day management of the zoo." Zoo directors countered that Peterson had failed to come up with a budget on time. The zoo now says it is looking for a new director and expects to pay considerably more than the $55,000 a year made by Peterson ... A wrongful-termination suit filed against the city of Loma Linda by Barry Johnson, now city manager of Imperial Beach, was argued last week before the state Supreme Court, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Johnson, ex-assistant manager of Loma Linda, claims that city eliminated his job in 1993 in retaliation for looking into discrimination claims by another city director.

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