by Luke Jones
Posted 10/15/2012 12:00 am
Updated 7 months ago
James David Sisney, the former Oklahoma school superintendent charged with accepting a bribe from Little Rock's Windstream Corp.,has had a conflicted history with the Broken Arrow School District for years.
He had been superintendent of the district near Tulsa for five years when, in October 2008, he was suspended.
According to stories published in the Tulsa World, Sisney claimed he was suspended because he had begun looking into school business practices. When Sisney was accused of financial malfeasance, he sued several people for defamation.
Sisney's accusations led to his firing later that month, and the district was audited shortly thereafter. The audit cleared the district of Sisney's accusations, but found that Sisney had given some administrators raises without board approval, among other things. A blog, SisneyConspiracy.com, popped up to keep track of Sisney's alleged sins.
Since then, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt had been searching for a concrete charge to pin on Sisney. That charge ended up being bribery.
"Today's indictments are the result of many months of investigation into practices by a former employee and a vendor of Broken Arrow Public Schools," Pruitt told the Tulsa World in August. "I'm very grateful for the sacrifice made by multicounty grand jurors, as well as the effort of state prosecutors and investigators in the Attorney General's Office and the state Auditor's Office in conducting a thorough investigation."
Both Windstream and Sisney have since moved to dismiss the bribery charges on a technical issue, and Judge Barbara G. Swinton of Oklahoma County is scheduled to address the motion by Oct. 30.
Complicating matters further is the case of Eddie Bryson, former vice president and general manager of Oklahoma operations for Windstream. Bryson testified that the all-session tickets to the 2007 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament were given to him by his boss, and Bryson gave them to Sisney as a gift when Bryson didn't have time to attend the games himself.
"It was either trash the tickets or give them to someone that was either a customer or a friend, and Dr. Sisney was both," Bryson testified.
But the Oklahoma grand jury alleges that the tickets were the result of a business relationship with the school district, so Bryson has been charged with perjury.
"His statement basically was that he was an employee who was given the tickets and just gave them to a friend, but we believe in actuality they were given by the corporation as a 'Thank You' for the business," Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Megan Tilly told The Associated Press in September.
According to Windstream, Bryson resigned in 2007.