NATIONAL NEWS

Whistleblowers file lawsuits against Oklahoma education boss, top aide

May 30, 2023, 3:35 PM | Updated: 4:28 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two former employees at the State Department of Education filed separate federal lawsuits Tuesday against Republican State Superintendent Ryan Walters and his top aide, alleging they were wrongfully fired last week.

Cheryl McGee, the agency’s former executive director of school-based mental health, claims in her lawsuit she was fired after being accused of sharing an email with the media. Matthew Colwell, who was a program manager of school success, says he was fired for sharing information with a state representative and the attorney general’s office that Walters’ proposed teacher pay plan violated federal and state laws and could end up costing the state $18 million.

Both lawsuits claim Matt Langston, Walters’ chief policy advisor, sent an email last week to all employees at the agency threatening to terminate anyone who leaked internal documents to the press. Langston allegedly prepared the email in a format so that he could “trap” employees who shared the email with the media, McGee’s lawsuit states.

“There were two purposes for this email. The first was to intimidate and chill the First Amendment rights of employees,” McGee’s lawsuit says. “The second was to retaliate against employees who shared information about matters of public concern in the Department of Education with members of the press or outside officials.”

Mark Hammons, the attorney for both plaintiffs, described both of them as whistleblowers and said they are entitled to actual and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.

Justin Holcomb, a spokesman for the agency, said the lawsuits were without merit.

“These legal claims are absurd, frivolous and a waste of taxpayer time and money,” Holcomb said in a text message to The Associated Press. “It’s a political stunt with no legal merit.”

Also on Tuesday, a third former employee at the agency filed a tort claim notice of her intent to sue for wrongful termination after she claims she was fired for speaking to her local school board. Janessa Bointy, a school counselor specialist, identified herself as a state employee but told the board she was speaking only as a concerned parent. Bointy is represented by The Center for Employment Law.

Walters, a former public school teacher elected to the top public education job in November, has released a jarring video last week portraying Walters as a crusader against woke ideology that many teachers said was misleading propaganda.

The state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, in an editorial on Tuesday called for lawmakers to explore ways to force him from office.

___

Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: @apseanmurphy

National News

FILE - Protesters shout before a speaking engagement by Ben Shapiro on the campus of the University...

Associated Press

Few Americans say conservatives can speak freely on college campuses, AP-NORC/UChicago poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans view college campuses as far friendlier to liberals than to conservatives when it comes to free speech, with adults across the political spectrum seeing less tolerance for those on the right, according to a new poll. Overall, 47% of adults say liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views […]

3 hours ago

Fencer Kirsten Hawkes poses for a portrait at a fencing studio Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in San Dieg...

Associated Press

Forced kiss claim leads to ‘helplessness’ for accuser who turned to Olympics abuse-fighting agency

DENVER (AP) — When Kirsten Hawkes, a one-time elite fencer, reached out to her childhood coach for advice about starting her own fencing club, their meeting turned awkward right away. It began, she said, with an unwanted kiss on the lips when the two met at a bar during a fencing tournament in Minneapolis last […]

4 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden and California Gov. Gavin Newsom wait for reporters to leave the room du...

Associated Press

California governor to name Laphonza Butler, former Kamala Harris adviser, to Feinstein Senate seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a spokesman in his office said Sunday. In choosing Butler, Newsom fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks in Clinton Township, Mich., Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. ...

Associated Press

Donald Trump says he will be in courtroom for New York trial scrutinizing his business practices

NEW YORK (AP) — With control over some of his most prized real estate holdings in jeopardy, former President Donald Trump says he will make a rare, voluntary trip to court Monday for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that has already resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Arizona’s biggest city has driest monsoon season since weather service began record-keeping in 1895

PHOENIX (AP) — After a summer of extreme heat, Arizona’s most populous city is in the record books again. This time Phoenix is notching a record for dry heat. The National Weather Service said the monsoon season this year in the arid Southwest dropped only 0.15 inches (.38 centimeters) of rainfall from June 15 to […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

A woman who fled the Maui wildfire on foot has died after weeks in a hospital burn unit

HONOLULU (AP) — A woman who escaped a wildfire that destroyed Hawaii community by running through a burning field has died after spending more than seven weeks in a hospital burn unit. Laurie Allen died Friday at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, according to a gofundme page set up for her and her husband, Perry […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Whistleblowers file lawsuits against Oklahoma education boss, top aide