The state Department of Education is investigating “allegations of fraud, suppression of fraud, intimidation and harassment in the workplace” made against Epic Charter School’s board chairman by its former vice chair.
“The State Department will be investigating these allegations and will seek to complete its review within the next (30) business days,” wrote Brad S. Clark, general counsel for the Department of Education, Tuesday in a letter sent to Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield.
“As a part of the investigation, the State Department will request your cooperation and will be requesting records that may provide evidence to substantiate or refute the allegations against the District.” (See full letter below)
In a three-page letter announcing her resignation as the Epic board’s vice chair, Kathren Stehno detailed her concerns, which include harassment and intimidation of female employees creating “an often-hostile work environment.” She also cited what she called alarming data about students withdrawn for truancy and violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Several women, who are current and former employees, reported being harassed by board Chairman Paul Campbell, Stehno wrote. “They have been yelled at, berated, subject to profane comments and implied threats to their employment,” according to the letter.
Additionally, Stehno’s letter claims that when the board’s internal auditor raised concerns about large, unapproved staff bonuses paid for with public funds, her position was threatened and she resigned. Linda Ladd was hired to be the board’s internal auditor in 2020.
Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board also has begun an inquiry into Stehno’s allegations, Robert Franklin, the board’s chairman, told the Tulsa World.
“Epic takes any allegation received about personnel seriously,” Epic spokesperson Chelsi LeBarre wrote Saturday in response to an Oklahoma Watch inquiry. “Epic is conducting an internal investigation, recusing any members accused. Preliminary results from the internal investigation have not shown any evidence of the allegations made by (Stehno).”
(This story will be updated)
Correction: In a previous version of this story, the name of Epic spokeswoman Chelsi LeBarre was spelled incorrectly. This version has been updated.