Education Department Audit Reveals Disturbing Use Of Funds

Wednesday, March 7th 2012, 11:31 pm
By: News 9

A state audit has revealed alarming details about use of Oklahoma tax dollars at the Department of Education.

The audit shows millions of dollars over a ten year period were used to throw fancy parties and dine out.

The money comes from various bank accounts, or a slush fund, which is unregulated for years. It cost taxpayers $2.3 million and former employees took elaborate measures to hide the theft, according to State Auditor Gary Jones.

Former employees at the department of education shelled out cash, not to reduce class sizes or for professional development, but for booze.

According to the audit, during a trip to Chelinos a group racked up a $4,500 tab, where department of education employees consumed $500 worth of margaritas, a $200 keg, and added a $561 tip.

"Those are items that would not be allowed to be purchased through state funds and obviously I don't think that citizens would feel this is a proper use of the money," said Jones.

A spokesperson for state Superintendent Janet Barresi agrees.

"Clearly we are troubled by that, but you know that occurred in the past. That's not something that happened under this administration, "said Damon Gadenhire, a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

The 39-page report dates back a decade to Sandy Garret's administration. The money was earmarked to be used for a superintendent's reception, but shows check after check after check of state money being funneled through three different bank accounts that weren't subject to audit because they were fraudulent accounts.

Gov. Mary Fallin and the attorney general are reviewing the report. They ultimately have the authority to seek criminal charges or perhaps restitution of taxpayer dollars.