FBI now involved in investigation into TPS Athletic Department
The FBI and federal prosecutors are now involved in the investigation into possible embezzlement and misappropriation of funds in the Tulsa Public Schools Athletic Department.
The latest twist in a months' long investigation by TPS Campus Police Department officers comes amid the discovery of "activities that could potentially be a violation of federal law," according to Superintendent Keith Ballard.
"As a result, discussions were initiated between TPS, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Tulsa office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Based on these discussions TPS has agreed to move forward in this investigation in concert with federal authorities," Ballard said in a written statement to the Tulsa World. "Frankly, I am quite pleased that TPS will be able to benefit from the additional resources the U.S. attorney and the FBI bring to the investigation."
The campus police investigation began last summer with a report of possible computer hacking into the personal emails of an Athletic Department secretary.
To date, no charges have been filed in the investigation and no suspects have been named, but Ballard has said it "involves multiple individuals."
In his statement Thursday, he also reiterated his commitment to seeing the complex investigation through, although no time frame for its completion was given.
"We take our role as stewards of our district's financial resources very seriously," Ballard said. "We will continue to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct and criminal behavior that is brought to our attention. Our integrity - and the example we set for students - demands nothing less from us."
He asked for the public's patience and understanding "as we work through the processes necessary to complete this inquiry. TPS greatly appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, so we can keep our attention squarely focused where it needs to be - on the educational needs of our students."
In July 2011, campus police filed a report stating that Athletic Director Stephanie Spring and Assistant Athletic Directors Latricia Pruitt and Jon Wheeler had disclosed to a school attorney that they accessed the personal emails of Spring's secretary "using a password they had located within" her vacated office.
The disclosure was said to have occurred during preparation for a due-process hearing for Cheryl Murphy, the secretary whose termination was being sought.
In November, Spring, Wheeler and Pruitt were all suspended, and Spring and Wheeler ultimately resigned. Pruitt and Murphy were reinstated, but Murphy was later fired for failing to report to work.
In mid-December, East Central High School's athletic director and football coach, Travis Hill, was suspended and subsequently resigned, but officials would not say whether that situation was related.
Coaches from throughout the district were summoned in January to the Education Service Center for an ethics training session that included an explanation of embezzlement and references to the ongoing scandal. According to an audio recording from the meeting, Campus Police Chief Gary Rudick urged coaches to report any possible violations to "minimize consequences and maximize opportunities to survive it."
In February, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris told the Tulsa World that once the school district submitted its findings to his office, he would ask for an independent review of the case by the Tulsa Police Department.
TPS Campus Police officials responded by insisting that their officers were qualified and experienced in such investigations.
On Thursday, Tulsa Public Schools spokesman Chris Payne said the district "never formally presented" its investigation to the Tulsa County the's Office.