Timeline of questionable activities
State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones has released three audit reports this year that have criticized the administrations of former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett and current state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi for the way they have solicited and managed funds used to pay for food, drinks, entertainment and travel associated with state educational conferences. Following is a timeline showing some of the events that have transpired:
• 1990: Sandy Garrett is elected state schools superintendent and begins a 20-year career as head of the state common education system.
• 1997: State Education Department officials decide to form two bank accounts and solicit funds from vendors to pay for food, drinks, entertainment and travel associated with state educational conferences. Officials later said they formed the accounts because state laws constrained them from using state funds to purchase food and beverages for educational conferences. The accounts were set up in the name of the nonprofit Oklahoma Curriculum Improvement Commission, but state education officials reportedly controlled them, and some members of the nonprofit later contended they were completely unaware of the funds.
• January 2011: Garrett leaves office, after deciding not to seek re-election, and is succeeded by newly elected state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi.
• 2011: Barresi orders the two bank accounts closed after discovering the Education Department is paying the Oklahoma State School Boards Association $25,000 a year to maintain them.
• April 2011: Education Department employee Ashley Hahn files paperwork with the secretary of state to create a nonprofit that is later used to hold funds solicited by state employees to fund the Innovation 2011 conference.
• July 2011: Educators from across the state attend the Innovation 2011 conference at the Cox Convention Center paid for almost entirely by $200,000 in private donations and vendor payments to the nonprofit established by Hahn.