Auditor Jones finds “much bigger problem” in audit of pre-Barresi management and practices at Education Department
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Published: 07-Mar-2012

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones released a supplemental investigative report today (Wednesday, March 7) requested by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
 
This supplemental investigative report follows an initial special audit report released January 4, 2012, which reviewed travel claims by a former state education department official.
 
“Superintendent Janet Barresi and the state School Board originally asked for a special audit regarding some suspicious travel claims by a former employee,” said State Auditor Gary Jones. “Information came to light during that investigation that suggested a much bigger problem had existed at the State Department of Education.
 
“We brought the information to the attention of Superintendent Barresi and requested permission to continue to investigate the existence of a previously unknown bank account,” Jones said. “We appreciate her full support and assistance in this matter.”
 
During the course of this limited investigation, the State Auditor became aware of three unauthorized, previously unknown bank accounts that were utilized as a slush fund to spend more than $2.3 million over a 10-year period. The use of these accounts allowed former State Education Department Officials to issue payments shielded from government oversight as well as public scrutiny.
 
SAI investigators spent many hours reviewing documents and conducting interviews during the course of this investigation.

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Damon Gardenhire, communications director for Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, said “We are troubled and concerned by the State Auditor’s findings about past practices under the previous administration. These things can’t be condoned or tolerated. Last year, we brought our concerns about irregular travel claims by an employee to the State Auditor, which ultimately led to the findings in today’s report. While the issues raised by the State Auditor in today’s report are not within our purview, we urge the appropriate authorities to take action to address any possible wrongdoing from past years.”

In his initial special audit, released in January, Jones concluded there was evidence of falsified travel claims by a former Assistant Superintendent.

In a video interview with CapitolBeatOK at that time, Jones indicated past agency management was a source of concern

Barresi’s predecessor as superintendent was Sandy Garrett. 

Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. 

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