School board hires special counsel; feds charge former administrator
On the same day the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted to hire special counsel, federal prosecutors charged Devin Fletcher, the former TPS chief talent and equity officer, with wire fraud in an embezzlement case that caught the attention of state officials.
On Monday, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma filed one count of felony wire fraud against Fletcher.
Court filings allege Fletcher, along with at least one other conspirator, made fraudulent invoices that cost the district more than $600,000.
The school district itself alerted law enforcement of Fletcher's alleged activities in June 2022 after financial irregularities were discovered.
Fletcher's embezzlement case has helped put TPS in the spotlight. Gov. Kevin Stitt called for a special audit and State Superintendent Ryan Walters has used the case to back his threats for the district losing its accreditation.
Special counsel hired
Dr. Ebony Johnson's first regular school board meeting as interim superintendent took place Monday, the same day as the charge against Fletcher was filed.
Feeling pressure from the state to quickly correct course on financials and low reading scores, the board voted to approve the hiring of attorney Doug Mann as special counsel to assist Johnson during her tenure as interim superintendent.
Johnson said hiring special legal counsel was necessary in order to achieve "clarity" between the school district and the state board.
Johnson praised Mann's record, saying he has an "extensive" background in education law.
TPS board members Dr. Jerry Griffin and E'Lena Ashley abstained from the vote to hire Mann.
The board then viewed a presentation from finance officer Jorge Robles regarding revenue and new guidelines for the district to better keep track of its funds.
When asked for comment on Fletcher's charge, Johnson said she's "very glad to know that we are moving into a space where we can put those things behind us" to pay more attention to TPS students.
When asked if she worries Fletcher's case will become further ammunition for attacks against TPS, Johnson said she's confident the new guidelines for financial oversight will do the job.