Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: June 27, 2014
Sen. Ralph Shortey
Shortey cites conflict of interest, calls for resignation of
chairman of Statewide Virtual Charter School Board
OKLAHOMA CITY –
Citing conflict of interest, Sen. Ralph Shortey said Friday the
chairman of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board should
resign. Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, points to a clear conflict of
interest involving John Harrington of Edmond, who currently serves
as the chairman of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, while
at the same time serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Funds for
Learning, LLC, a company that he owns that performs e-rate
consulting services for Oklahoma public schools.
“I find both the lack of disclosure surrounding this
conflict and the conflict itself deeply troubling. I believe that the only way
to put the matter to rest is for Mr. Harrington to resign his position on the
Statewide Virtual Charter School Board,” Shortey said.
Appointees are typically required to disclose their
personal financial interests on the Form F-2R to be filed at the Oklahoma Ethics
Commission. Harrington’s form is filed, but he only discloses “earnings from
private consulting practice” and “earnings from real estate holdings.”
“Mr. Harrington did not even mention the word
education to describe his business in his disclosure filings, let alone the fact
that the revenue for his business is derived from traditional brick and mortar
public schools on a contingency and fee for service basis,” Shortey said. “His
clients are the competitors of the schools that he is now regulating.
Restricting the growth of those schools that he regulates is protecting the
interest of the clients that pay him. That is a conflict of interest by any
definition, and is unacceptable.”
A new statute passed by the legislature in the 2013
session brings all statewide virtual charter schools under the newly created
board as of July 1, 2014. Shortey added that legislators intended the board to
be made up of citizen members whose only vested interest was the benefit of
Oklahoma schoolchildren, not those protecting personal business interests.
Senator Shortey also intends to make an immediate
public records request for all communications between the State Department of
Education and Chairman Harrington and is requesting that the board not finalize
any business until these records are released or the chairman has resigned.
“The Oklahoma families that attend these growing
innovative virtual schools under this board deserve oversight that is objective
and not tainted by clear conflicts of interest, or even the perception of a
conflict,” Shortey said.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Shortey: (405) 521-5557