Oklahoma Dismisses Bribery, Conspiracy Charges Against Windstream

Windstream Corp. of Little Rock will pay an Oklahoma school foundation $100,000 as part of an agreement with the state to dismiss bribery and conspiracy charges filed by a grand jury in August.

Windstream denies any wrongdoing. The telecommunications firm said it entered the agreement to dismiss the charges "in the interest of reaching a compromise acceptable to it and to the state."

"We are pleased to reach an agreement with the state of Oklahoma to dismiss these charges," said John Fletcher, executive vice president and general counsel for Windstream. "We have denied the charges from the beginning and cooperated fully with the investigation.

"As always, our focus remains on conducting our business with integrity."

According to the original indictment, Windstream offered James David Sisney, then superintendent for the Broken Arrow School District, two all-session tickets to the 2007 NCAA basketball tournament in Atlanta.

The gift included free lodging at Atlanta's Grand Hyatt Hotel, complementary food, beverages, souvenirs, local transportation and area entertainment.

Windstream supplied Internet services to the school district, and according to the indictment, the alleged bribe's purpose was to secure the continuation of the business relationship.

The indictment said such gratuities were a violation of state law and of the express policy of the Broken Arrow Board of Education.

According to Windstream, part of the agreement (PDF), filed Wednesday in Oklahoma District Court, includes the company pledging "to take certain steps affirming its commitment to full compliance with all federal, state and local laws." 

Those steps include maintaining a "director of government contract compliance" in its legal department, who will work with the company's sales and marketing groups about regulatory compliance and monitor regulations for government contracting.

The company will also pay the Broken Arrow school foundation $100,000 -- a donation ineligible for tax deductions.

As for Sisney, he's agreed to pay the school foundation $9,500 and entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, whereby the state won't file charges if Sisney meets certain conditions for one year, according to the Tulsa World.

Arkansas Business examined the bribery allegations in a cover story in October.