Thursday, February 24, 2011

Garrett Denies Barresi 'Plot' Allegation

Former Superintendent
Sandy Garrett
Former Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett today denied an allegation that she plotted with Board of Education members to embarrass the new superintendent, Republican Janet Barresi.

A Department of Education source claims she was privy to a conversation in which Garrett, a Democrat who held the post for 20 years, allegedly indicated in mid-December that she had been in email contact with board member Tim Gilpin, a Tulsa attorney and like Garrett a Democrat, who supported Barresi's Democratic opponent, Senator Susan Paddack. Gilpin is a former Tulsa County Democratic Party chairman and longtime donor to liberal Democrats. Gilpin and former Democratic Senator Herb Rozell, also a board member, touched off a furor a month ago when they attacked Barresi at her first board meeting and refused to approve her employment of three top assistants.

But Garrett told The McCarville Report Online this morning, "Your report is totally wrong. Herb Rozell does not have a computer nor does he email - nor was there a plot of any sort. There has always been discussion among the Board members and the many others I have served with throughout the past 20 years. In December we had a 4 -3 vote on the TRS issue. Janet was my dentist and friend of 20 years. We worked on the first Charter Bill together. I spoke at her boy's 8th grade graduation, and I wish her well! It is my hope that everyone can get on with the important needs in education for the boys and girls of this state!"

Garrett's emails have mysteriously disappeared from department computers. An employee says she was instructed by Garrett to delete them; Garrett says she gave no such order. But emails from her final months in office as yet have not been located.

The missing emails were discovered after The Associated Press asked about them. Two state records custodians told The AP that the deletion violated a state directive and cost researchers access to significant historical records of a longtime office-holder.

After The AP asked to see Garrett's recent correspondence, the Department of Education said the records no longer existed and disclosed that Garrett communicated with her staff through her private e-mail accounts in her last month on the job.

Damon Gardenhire, Barresi's communications director, told TMRO today that The AP and KFOR-TV have filed Open Records requests for the emails, but the Data Services Department has said they cannot be retrieved because the email system used by the Department of Education is "antiquated."

That, Gardenhire said, has prompted Barresi to speed up plans to replace the present email service with a free email service from Google.

Gardenhire also said that a request has been filed for access to Garrett's personal email account since she used it to communicate with department employees and others about state business.

Garrett insisted this morning that her emails will be found; she said there is "nothing there" because she did not conduct serious department business via emails.

The Office of Archives and Records told The AP that substantive correspondence from Oklahoma department heads is considered part of the state's permanent record and should never be erased.

Garrett, who left office January 10th, was state schools superintendent for two decades, a tenure that stretches back to the days before e-mail was in wide use. It wasn't clear whether she knew that deleting her official e-mail account would also wipe out all of her correspondence. 

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