Oklahoma Department of Education embraces new donation practices

The state Board of Education recently approved a donation for hotel and convention space. The process is new after a state auditor found continued mismanagement of donations to the state Education Department.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: December 26, 2012
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“There's a lot of transparency there,” Robison said. “When these gifts or donations or sponsorships are given, it's on the board agenda so everybody's aware of it.”

For example, the board voted last week to accept a donation of about $5,000 from Magnuson Hotel and Meridian Convention Center for an education conference.

The donation process has been completely overhauled, Robison said. When donations are needed, the requests are posted on the agency website. People who want to help respond to the website, Robison said.

Under Garrett's administration, auditors found that donations often came from companies that received millions of dollars worth of no-bid state contracts. Some of the executives donated to Garrett's re-election campaigns, too. That's come to a stop under Barresi, Robison said.

“We no longer do sole-source contracts,” he said. “We put everything out to bid. We think that's a good safeguard against what might have been going on in the past. That sort of activity is not going on with the state Department of Education.”