An East Texas representative urged the state Attorney General’s office to open an investigation into the Houston-based Harmony Public Schools, purportedly linked to the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. The charter chain stands accused of fraud, misappropriation of taxpayer dollars, shady business dealings, discrimination, conflicts-of-interest, and other questionable business practices.
Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) voiced his thoughts in a letter, requesting Paxton probe into the lengthy and troublesome charges made against the charter chain in a 32-page complaint filed on May 24 with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) by Amsterdam & Partners LLC, a law firm representing the Turkish government in this matter.
“I would respectfully request that you investigate these charges, or have them turned over to the Texas Rangers for investigation on behalf of the citizens of Texas,” Flynn wrote.
Breitbart Texas reported on the particulars of this complaint, which was lodged against Harmony’s governing board and charter holder, the Cosmos Foundation. It pressed the TEA to investigate the public charter over its practices and affiliations, alleging misuse of the H-1B visa program and job discrimination, including preferential hiring of Turkish nationals and male teachers. The complaint raised questions about Harmony’s vendor bidding practices and alleged they funneled money to the Gülen Organization, which Turkish President Erdoğan accused of trying to overthrow the government.
The complaint purports Harmony has ties with the cleric Gülen, presently living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. He is considered a powerful and determined opponent of Erdoğan. In the May complaint, Amsterdam & Partners recommended the TEA investigate Harmony, the largest public charter system in the Texas and the second largest charter network in the United States.
“I am most concerned because if the facts are correct, Texas taxpayers are in fact in danger and our education system, not to mention the safety of our citizens, seems to be in peril,” Flynn, who chairs the state House Pension Committee, underscored in his letter.
His concerns stemmed from the complaint — discrimination against English language learners and students with special needs, discrimination against employees based on national origin/gender, misuse of the visa program, apparent violation of competitive bidding laws, misuse of state/federal funds and failure to maintain adequate internal controls.
Although Flynn’s letter was released Wednesday, he actually penned it on July 6, the same day Amsterdam & Partners filed a supplemental 12-page complaint with the TEA, which Breitbart Texas reported. This second grievance accused Harmony of numerous nefarious activities including fraud and pocketing $18.4 million dollars of Texas taxpayer dollars through a shell game with another allegedly affiliated company. The complaint also identified managerial conflicts-of-interest and irregularities in the leasing, financing, and bond arrangements for six new charter facilities in Texas.
Harmony operates 46 Texas public charter schools that serve 30,500 students. They list 3,262 faculty and staff members plus boast a 98 percent high school graduation rate and 100 percent college acceptance rate. Harmony plans to open 15 new campuses over the next two school years, serving approximately 10,000 students.
In Texas, this chain of open enrollment public charter schools is funded by more than $250 million state and federal taxpayer dollars, annually. They are eligible for certain grants and various federal funds, plus the free and reduced breakfast and national school lunch programs.
The Republic of Turkey hired Amsterdam & Partners in October 2015, reportedly on a retainer basis of $50,000 per month to conduct a global investigation into the alleged “activities of the organization led by Gülen. Still, Harmony officials continue to deny any connection to Gülen and dismiss the allegations.
Presently, the TEA is reviewing both of the law firm’s formal complaints. The status of Flynn’s request with the Office of the Attorney General is not yet known.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.