New and Old Grifters Take Center Stage in State Auditor’s Report
1:51 PM EDT on June 28, 2023
Now that it’s been about 24 hours since the release of the 256-page State Auditor's Report that documented approximately $30-million in wasteful government spending, mismanagement and shameless grifting of federal pandemic dollars, we’re starting to get a better sense of the key players involved the scheme.
Some we already know about – like State Superintendant Ryan Langston-Walters.
Before he was a devout theocratic culture warfighter, Ryan was handpicked by Trent Smith, Jennifer Monies, and other “school choice/privatization” activists to earn a six-figure salary leading the “Every Kid Counts Foundation.” Not too long after, Kevin Stitt would name Ryan his Secretary of Public Education.
Under these dual leadership roles, Ryan and Every Kid Counts was put in charge of overseeing Oklahoma’s implementation of Bridge the Gap – a federal program that was supposed to help homeschool parents who were financially affected by the pandemic purchase school supplies.
Instead, Ryan used it as an opportunity to let anyone who applied use the money to buy things like TVs, power tools, and Pacman video game cabinets. According to the audit, the program had “$1.8 million in questioned costs” and determined 20% of purchases were spent on non-educational items. The state also didn’t use all the money allocated to the program, meaning we had to send the leftovers back to the feds.
Of course, that scandal has been widely reported over the past year or so, and as a result of that willful display of ignorance, incompetence, and possibly indictable behavior, Oklahoma voters still overwhelmingly elected him to lead our public schools because, you know, woke trans kitty litter libraries or whatever.
Although the Walters story was old news, the audit revealed new grifts and schemes that have been previously unreported.
One of them was led by famed Oklahoma public school saboteur Jennifer Carter.
She’s a renowned “school choice” grifter and former henchman for Janet Barresi. She's also married to right-wing propagandist Ray Carter – a former editorial writer for your grandpa’s Oklahoman who currently writes partisan ultra-conservative drivel for the OCPA dunce tank.
Jennifer is a senior advisor for Betsy Devos’s education hustle Federation for Children and is also the owner of a small business named Libertas Consulting.
For the non-elitists out there, Libertas is the Latin word for Freedom. It’s also the Derplahoma word for Freedumb.
For some reason, Stitt and Co put Jennifer – a public school saboteur who wants to funnel taxpayer funding to her private school grifter pals – in charge of a program called “Stay in School.” It’s a $10-million GEER initiative that was supposed to help people financially impacted by the pandemic cover their private school tuition.
Obviously, that plan worked out great… for rich private school folk who wanted free government money.
Instead of making sure dollars went to those who need it, Jennifer reached out to her private school pals to make sure they got first dibs on a federal funding free-for-all, leaving poor families out in the cold at the bus stop.
Check this out:
Yep, 65% of funding was “questionable.” I have to say, Jennifer has to be pretty disappointed in herself for not doing a better job... for the private school grifters! I bet her goal was to funnel 85% of funds to questionable sources. You know, a solid B as opposed to an F.
The Frontier talked to Jennifer and got this quote:
“As the nation’s leading voice for education freedom, AFC was happy to offer advice to the state around the implementation of the Governor’s Stay in School Fund GEER program,” Carter said. “The Stay in School Fund, which was aimed at minimizing students’ education disruption during COVID, served almost 1900 kids with tuition assistance. We gladly provided this service at no expense to taxpayers.
Wow. How sweet! The group funded by a billionaire didn’t charge the state a dime for mismanaging the federal “Stay In School” program, and giving preferential treatment to their friends and allies, and sending over $6 million dollars to people and schools that didn’t need or deserve it. How kind of them!
In addition to the school funding stuff, Cindy Bird highlighted how some local non-profits mismanaged and took a large slice of money designated for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
For example, Communities Foundation of Oklahoma City was tapped by Stitt and Co. to help run the program. Even though the program had a built-in payment model to compensate them as administrators, the foundation pulled a Brent Swadley and tossed its own management fee into the smoker, essentially getting a double helping of fees.
According to Cindy Byrd, this is unallowable, but Stitt and Co are still allowing it. As a result, taxpayers may be on the hook for up to $15-million in paybacks:
In addition to those costs, Oklahoma Watch covered some nickel and dime, but still shady, expenses accrued by the non-profits:
$66,113 were spent in never-recouped overpayments to Oklahomans who received relief payouts inconsistent with their eligibility.
$5,665 were spent on prohibited costs for entertainment, gifts, gift cards, inappropriate bonuses and personal items.
Listen. I think we’re all guilty of trying to get our work to pay for personal items, but you have to be careful with it. You have to avoid the temptation if there’s a chance it will all be audited by the feds.
Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma City is applying a slick management fee to things. Their Executive Director – Teresa Rose – is a former courtier to House Chesapeake, so she’s probably all too familiar with weird accounting methods and shady financial dealings.
Oklahoma Watch reached out to her, and the other non-profits for comment. They declined.
Anyway, those are just some of the new – and old – players that we’re learning about in this ever-evolving scandal. With Attorney General Gentner Drummond now locking the scandal into his targeting pod, I’m sure some more will come out of the woodwork. As Cindy Byrd mentioned, there’s a big tangled web to unwrap here.
“This was a tangled web of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and non-government individuals representing special interest groups managing millions of tax dollars with no contracts and no written agreements,” Auditor Byrd said. “Sadly, millions of tax dollars were misspent because certain individuals who were put in charge of managing these programs seemingly ignored federal grant guidelines.”
Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised.
More from The Lost Ogle
Artisan Market - Dec. 8-10 @ Oklahoma Contemporary
Ryan Walters Takes Holy Aim at ‘Radical Atheists’
It’s part of his plan to force Christian prayer upon Oklahoma public school students.