A key witness in the criminal case against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has resigned from his job as head of a school administrators’ group, Oklahoma Watch has learned.
Ryan Owens was general counsel for the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration before being named executive director in July.
The CCOSA executive committee held a special meeting Tuesday, where it accepted Owens’ resignation, according to a message sent out by the group. Owens could not be reached for comment.
Pam Deering, CCOSA’s associate executive director and former superintendent and chief financial officer of the Midwest City-Del City School District, was named interim director.
According to a letter from Jerry Needham, CCOSA’s executive committee director, CCOSA will begin the process of recruiting a permanent executive director in February.
“We recognize that the last few days have been difficult for our organization and our membership,” Needham wrote. “We want to reassure you that the mission and direction of our organization and the professional organizations under the CCOSA umbrella has not changed. We will get through this together.”
On Nov. 3, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office filed felony criminal charges against Hofmeister and four others alleging violations of election law and conspiracy. One of the four is former CCOSA Executive Director Steven Crawford and former Oklahoma Education Association President Lela Odom.
Owens is one of the key witnesses listed in the probable cause affidavit laying out prosecutors’ case.
The affidavit states that Owens, as general counsel, helped form and work for an outside organization named Oklahomans for Public School Excellence, a nonprofit that was campaigning and spending money for Hofmeister’s 2014 primary election, while at the same time doing significant work for Hofmeister’s official campaign.
Prosecutors allege the organization was formed to get around campaign contribution limits and illegally coordinated polling, advertising and strategy with Hofmeister’s official campaign committee. Owens was one of the main links between the two groups, according to the affidavit.
Crawford and Odom are accused of funneling $100,000 from American Fidelity Assurance Co. through CCOSA and OEA, with each group adding $100,000 from their own coffers to Oklahomans for Public School Excellence in order to pay for the organization’s campaign supporting Hofmeister.
Hofmeister has denied any wrongdoing and said she will fight the charges and does not plan to resign.