The following press release was issued via wire. Please see a copy of the complaint here.
AUSTIN, May 24, 2016 — The law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP has filed a formal Complaint against Harmony Public Schools (Harmony), urging the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct a full investigation into Harmony based on documented abuses suggesting a wide-spread pattern of fraud, discrimination, and abuse in the Harmony network.
Harmony – which is financed by over $250 million federal and state tax dollars annually – operates seven open-enrollment charter school districts serving forty-six charter campuses in Texas. The Complaint sets out numerous substantiated violations of laws and regulations designed to ensure transparency, accountability, and responsible stewardship of public resources. According to the Complaint, Harmony engages in illegal employment discrimination on the basis of national origin and gender, preference and selection of affiliated vendors in violation of open and competitive bidding requirements, and misuse of public education funds.
“The TEA has a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure that public education dollars are used solely for their intended purpose,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP. “Our own limited investigation reveals that Harmony uses taxpayer funds to finance an illegal H1-B visa scheme that places underqualified Turkish teachers into key positions in its schools, while simultaneously underpaying its more qualified non-Turkish teachers. We have also learned that Harmony misappropriates public funds by routinely engaging in improper self-dealing transactions with affiliated vendors, which has the further effect of preventing local businesses from competing for contracts at Harmony schools.”
Harmony has been the subject of federal and state investigations in recent years, with findings including poor financial controls, misuse of federal program funds for special education and Title I, and significant underrepresentation of English-language learners and students with special needs in Harmony schools. As those investigations did not examine Harmony’s employment, procurement, or business practices, the Complaint formally requests that the TEA conduct a comprehensive investigation into Harmony to ensure that these past legal violations have been rectified and that its ongoing practices are consistent with the law. The TEA and Commissioner have broad authority to monitor and investigate Harmony, and the Complaint submits that the Commissioner should conduct an investigation now in light of Harmony’s aggressive expansion plans to open up to fifteen new campuses in Texas over the next two years.
The Complaint also asserts that Harmony and many of its directors, employees, and related vendors are connected to the Gülen Organization, a network of schools and affiliated businesses headed by Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive Turkish cleric residing in Saylorsville, Pennsylvania. “We believe that Harmony’s ill-gotten gains are funneled to the Gülen Organization, which uses them to enrich itself and to expand its political influence in the United States, Turkey and dozens of other countries around the world,” said Amsterdam. “My firm is submitting this Complaint in its own name, without any of the numerous Texas taxpayers who support the Complaint, owing to the Gülen Organization’s standard practice of harassing and intimidating anyone who speaks out against it.”
Amsterdam & Partners LLP – an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC – acts for the Republic of Turkey, and is conducting a global investigation into the alleged illegal activities of the Gülen Organization. Additional information about Amsterdam & Partners LLP is available at www.guleninvestigation.com.
This material is distributed by Amsterdam & Partners on behalf of the Republic of Turkey. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, DC.