When the school board fired Jim Sisney, by law he had the opportunity to request a due process hearing. He announced in a press conference that he would not, saying that there is no way he could get a fair hearing because of the “bias” among the three board members who voted to fire him. He said he would file a lawsuit instead.
He did file the lawsuit, a separate one from the lawsuit he had filed a month and a half before he was terminated, but later asked for it to be dismissed, giving an irrelevant excuse. The real reason was that it had no merit because he had waived his due process hearing.
Sisney kept up his complaint of “bias” in his lawsuits, and the public followed along, calling the three board members “wet hens”, “witches”, “3 amigos”, and other names. The other two board members were made out to be the heroes, trying to stop the “takeover” by the majority of the board.
Let’s look at what the two “heroes” were really doing.
- assisted Sisney in “isolating Maryanne“
- at Jim’s direction, made disparaging claims about the school district’s legal counsel in a board meeting
- rallied parents and citizens to protest the ban on public comments at the special board meetings where suspension and termination were voted on; even though she knew it was necessary for legal reasons
- continually stirred up conflict by trying to blame the three for the legal fees – fees which had been incurred directly because of Sisney’s actions
- directed citizens to harass the board and show them in a bad light
- lied when she claimed board members had not been prevented from putting items on the agenda – even after Sisney himself admitted in a board meeting that he had refused to add agenda items
- lied when she said she didn’t know of any reason to suspend Sisney
- gave a newspaper interview in which she violated several board ethics to inaccurately place blame on the three for the loss of teaching positions
- held a meeting in her house with Sisney, Rep. Mike Ritze, Chris Tharp, and Beth Snellgrove to prepare misleading documents to provide to the auditor
- Along with Chris Tharp and Beth Snellgrove, met with the auditor’s office in OKC about her claims of misspent money on legal fees, inappropriate actions by the district’s legal counsel, and open meetings and open records violations. All of these were proven to be baseless, except for the Open Meetings violations, which were unavoidable because Sisney had made it impossible for the board to conduct its business in open meetings as required by law.
- Along with Terry Stover and Beth Snellgrove, met with the attorney general to present Sisney’s accusations against the three and the District’s legal counsel; their testimony and documents provided the basis for the discarded, incoherent train wreck known as the “Combs audit“.
- On her last day as board member, emailed a confidential board communication to a citizen, with the heading “I don’t know if you ever saw this…I don’t remember it. Just thought you might be interested”. The email was from Ms. Flippo, and showed her support for informing the public about the legal fees, contrary to Updike’s claims. This leaked email made its way from citizen Beth Snellgrove to Sisney, ending up in his motion to dismiss the counterclaim, which is puzzling since it proves the exact opposite of what Sisney contends. The board made a statement indicating that Ms. Updike had leaked confidential board information more than once. This email and its heading indicate that it was probably a regular occurrence.
- As board president, and as directed by Sisney, refused to allow agenda items that were requested by other board members, including one to discuss the mysteriously lowered fund balance
- Attempted to explain his persistent refusal to allow agenda items with a technicality on a policy that didn’t apply
- stirred up public outcry about the board’s 3-2 decision not to allow public comments at the suspension and termination meetings, even though he knew it would have put the District at risk of legal challenges and would have had to allow negative comments about Sisney as well as positive ones
- Wrote an editorial in the Ledger criticizing the ban on public comments, calling the decision “censorship” and a “violation of democratic principles”
- as board president, refused to take any action when informed of Sisney’s threats to Flippo, calling it “hearsay”
- sent a clandestine letter from the whole board to Mike Rampey, without the board’s knowledge. This letter was supposed to be approved by the board, and Wilkins had been asking for it for weeks, only to find it had already been sent
- Met with the attorney general, along with Updike and Snellgrove, to present Sisney’s version of his firing by the majority of the school board. He left out the board’s reasons for termination and all of the evidence showing Sisney’s campaign against the board member and Air Assurance. The Combs audit relied on their testimony and documents, and was discarded by Auditor Burrage after it was found to be full of irrelevant hearsay, gossip, and unsubstantiated accusations, some of which were word-for-word from Sisney’s press conferences and lawsuits.
- made a fuss about resigning when the Combs audit was discarded, claiming that the board had interfered with the audit and suggesting that they would “retaliate” against employees who had “cooperated” with the investigation
Knowing what we know now about the Combs audit, it’s clear that the employees, board members, citizens, and state representatives who “cooperated” were Sisney supporters who provided misinformation to the auditor and attorney general. Stover knew this when he made his statements.
Knowing what we know now about Sisney’s manipulations, scheming, and feeding the press lies and misinformation, it’s clear that the his actions are the direct cause of the legal bills. Updike knew this when she made her statements.
Both of these board members violated ethics to support the superintendent’s efforts to control the board, force a renewal of his contract on his terms, create chaos in the school administration, fire employees to cover up his own wrongdoing, damage the reputations of school staff, board members, citizens, and businesses, and present to the public a picture that was a complete lie. The truth about their actions needs to be understood by the people they fooled.
Keep checking back for new posts and refer to Broken Arrow Forum for detailed information, analysis, and court documents related to Jim Sisney, the Broken Arrow school board controversy, and the special audit of the BAPS.