After initially pleading not guilty to the charge against him, former Tulsa Public Schools administrator Devin Fletcher changed his plea to guilty this morning, admitting details in the conspiracy to commit wire fraud case brought against him in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
Fletcher was charged Sept. 18 after resigning more than a year earlier. TPS first announced the discovery of “contract irregularities” related to Fletcher’s embezzlement in June 2022, the same month Fletcher resigned.
As part of his plea agreement filed Monday in federal court, Fletcher agreed to pay at least $378,992 in restitution to Tulsa Public Schools and $225,000 to the TPS Foundation. Following his guilty plea, Fletcher will remain on bond until he is sentenced.
“Devin Darel Fletcher was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing and will be sentenced at a later date,” according to a press release posted online by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Oklahoma. “He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.”
According to the charging document for Fletcher, TPS hired him in August 2016 as the district’s chief academic officer and eventually promoted him to chief learning and talent officer.
Prosecutors allege that, while Fletcher worked for TPS, he caused the district to lose at least $603,992 by fabricating purchase orders and invoices and inflating vendor costs. That amount equals the combined restitution to which Fletcher agreed Monday.
“Tulsa Public Schools is thankful for the excellent work of the United States Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement in seeking justice for the students and families of our district,” Jana Burk, TPS general counsel, said in a statement. “We recognize the defendant’s admission of responsibility in today’s guilty plea and await the important sentencing phase of the matter. The financial security of the district is of the utmost importance. The success of our justice system and the additional financial safeguards put in place by the district will undoubtedly help deter any future financial misdealing.”
Fletcher’s attorney, Brett Swab, did not return a phone call seeking comment prior to publication of this article.
TPS continues to work with state board
In recent months, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has repeatedly referred to the embezzlement — which TPS leaders say the district self-reported — as reason to take a closer look at the district’s accreditation status.
Walters implied in a press conference Aug. 7 that the amount TPS has lost owing to embezzlement could be closer to $1 million, although district officials told media that they have not found evidence to that effect.
“The more layers are pulled back, the more issues are uncovered at TPS,” said Dan Isett, the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s director of communications. “That’s why Superintendent Walters has been so diligent in rooting out all of the issues that have led to failing schools in Tulsa. Our students deserve better than what they have gotten.”
In August, after weeks of uncertainty, the State Board of Education voted to accredit TPS “with deficiencies” on the condition that TPS regularly update the state board on its progress toward better financial controls and improved academic output.
TPS officials have since given two updates to the state board on their progress, highlighting increased internal controls to help prevent future cases of embezzlement.
“I stand firm as the interim superintendent to say that we have an expectation that the dollars that come to Tulsa Public Schools will be used responsibly,” TPS interim Superintendent Ebony Johnson told board members Sept. 28. “Much of this work is already underway. Our finance team worked diligently to strengthen our internal controls to ensure that our process from the moment we select a vendor all the way through to when we pay an invoice will prevent an embezzlement issue from happening again.”
The TPS board met Monday evening to consider approval of a three-year renewal of its contract with Tulsa Honor Academy charter high school.
(Update: This article was updated at 5:40 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30, 2023 — five minutes after it published — to include comment from TPS general counsel Jana Burk.)