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Auditor releases report on state Education Department, conference nonprofit

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Here’s a news release from the state auditor’s office:

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Auditor Gary Jones released a second audit regarding the inappropriate use of Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) employees to sponsor, organize and host a summer education conference.

An audit released in March 2012 was critical of OSDE’s relationship with a non-profit foundation in which bank accounts were not disclosed to the non-profit’s board but were utilized to funnel more than $2 million over a 10-year period to host an annual education conference.

The 2011 conference was not the focus of our previous investigation. While OSDE made verbal assurances that the 2011 conference had been handled differently than in past years, no such written assurance was provided to our office as requested.

The audit released today again criticizes the use of a non-profit foundation, apparently established for the sole purpose of administering the Innovation 2011 Conference, but not fully delineating the boundaries and functions between OSDE and the non-profit entity in the planning and execution of the conference.

“Our investigation found OSDE still maintained operational control of the event and utilized state personnel in a questionable and likely inappropriate manner,” said State Auditor Gary Jones. “It’s clear that OSDE personnel were primarily involved with raising and collecting funds and that it shared responsibility for contracting, disbursing funds and authorizing expenditures of the non-profit.

“It is our understanding that the new administration relied on the institutional knowledge of its personnel and the previous framework to organize a large conference in a short amount of time,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, in its haste, the current administration repeated many of the same errors committed over multiple years by the prior administration which utilized what amounted to a slush fund to pay conference expenses.”

The audit report points out that current and former OSDE employees approved and carried out the creation of a non-profit foundation for the purpose of soliciting funds, contracting with vendors and hosting the Innovation 2011 summer conference. The board of the Oklahoma Foundation for Innovation in Education never met or voted as a board; it did not have a written contract with OSDE, and was, arguably, serving merely as a front organization without actual operational control over the conference.

The full report is available online at

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Carrie Coppernoll

Carrie Coppernoll is a columnist and reporter. She was named the top personal columnist in Oklahoma in 2009 and 2010 by the Associated Press and Association of Newspaper Editors. She was also named the 2008 Journalist of the Year by the Oklahoma... Read more ›