We filed an ethics complaint against DPI's Director of Governent Affairs in June. What followed was a coordinated attack against Education First Alliance.
Should a public official use their position to silence parents fighting against Critical Race Theory (CRT), especially when their spouse is a registered lobbyist for educational companies pushing CRT?
We thought the answer should be “HELL NO!” The State’s Ethics Commission disagrees.
Back in June, Education First Alliance (EFA) requested the State Ethics Commission to investigate whether Jamey Falkenbury, Director of Government Affairs for the Department of Instruction (DPI), abused his position to influence the outcomes of public funding requests in favor of his wife - a registered education lobbyist.
EFA complaints highlights :
Falkenbury’s wife has been a registered lobbyist for two education companies K-12 Inc., and Waterford Institute; as well as for Eastpointe, a company that provides in-school mental health services since 2015. In various ways the companies push Critical Race Theory (CRT), universal student surveys, Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
EFA represents North Carolinians opposed to CRT, student surveys, SEL, and in-school psychiatric clinics.
By personally going out of his way to harass EFA, Falkenbury was operating against his constituents in favor of his wife’s clients and his own bottom line.
Last week, we received notice from Falkenbury’s lawyer Steven Walker that the State Ethics Commission dismissed EFA's complaint in August for “failing to allege sufficient facts to constitute a violation within the Commission’s jurisdiction.” Walker was Falkenbury's supervisor in Lt. Governor Dan Forest's administration.
The committee's ruling means that Falkenbury can continue to behave aggressively towards parents who are trying to thwart CRT, SEL, and Panorama surveys in schools - even if doing so will help the regulatory environment for his wife’s clients.
Sloan Rachmuth, President of Education First Alliance:
“When a public official in the State’s education department shares a bed and bank account with an education lobbyist, the appearance of a conflict of interest will never fade.”
“This is especially true given that the Superintendent hired Jamey Falkenbury in the role of Chief Lobbyist for the DPI surely knowing that his wife is now, and has been an education lobbyist for years,” Rachmuth continued.
DAN FOREST'S EDUCATION CZAR
In 2017, the year he married the education lobbyist, Lt. Governor Forest made Falkenbury his education policy director, serving as the liaison between the DPI and the State Board of Education according to his LinkedIn profile. Moreover, he was Forest's advocate in General Assembly, which meant he lobbied for education bills, policies, and appropriations.
One such bill passed in the final months of the Forest administration authorized the State's Board of Education to force every school in the state to promote SEL, CRT, invasive sexual surveys, and to compel teachers to screen and treat students for psychiatric conditions. The 2020 bill provides all school staff and medical clinics (like Falkenbury's wife's clients) complete legal immunity for damage done to children and their families.
Did Falkenbury push for this bill and these policies? We are close to learning that answer.
We asked Steven Walker why, as Falkenbury’s boss, he did not publicly disclose that the Education Policy Director for the Lt. Governor was married to an education lobbyist. Walker's answer: "Mr. Falkenbury's position was not subject to the State Ethics Act and he was not required to file SEIs during that time."
Leaving legal loopholes aside, it is immoral for a public servant to spend years helping to draft and pass regulations that make his family wealthy while other families suffer under said regulations. However, Raleigh's elite educrats don't care about morality until they run for office.
SUPERINTENDENT TRUITT'S LOBBYIST
Falkenbury's job decription at the DPI again includes lobbying legislators and influencing policies that can be favorable to his wife's clients, and his own wallet.
As example, Falkenbury now sits on the Charter School Advisory Board. Though he is a non-voting member, he works directly with the board that makes recommendations to the State Board on renewals, nonrenewals, and revocations of charters. NC Virtual Academy is a Charter under the board's jurisdiction and is managed by Falkenbury's wife's client K-12 Inc. The DPI oversees this 100% virtual charter school that received “D”s on its State school report card for 3-years straight (no scores issued in 2020) and failed to meet growth benchmarks since its launch in 2015.
If Virtual Academy continues to spiral, will Falkenbury lobby against sanctioning the charter? Or will he do whatever it takes to preserve the revenue stream for K-12 Inc. while thousands of students languish?
Perhaps the most alarming indicator of Falkenbury's dishonesty and lack of transparency was his clumsy attempt to prevent the public from finding out about the fact that his wife's clients recieve state taxpayer funds and are also under the management of his agency, the DPI. This year, Falkenbury filed three different disclosure statements with the Secretary of State, and hid his wife's business with the State on all three forms.
That is neither transparent nor honest, and it’s shameful that Superintendent Truitt and local media aren’t tearing Jamey Falkenbury to shreds for it. Instead, they have been silent.
Falkenbury's former boss, Dan Forest, reached out to an EFA supporter in late June as EFA was set to file its filed its complaint against Falkenbury with the Ethics Commission. In a voice message, Forest swore that Falkenbury's wife was not a lobbyist, and said that Falkenbury had the loyal support of Raleigh's lawmakers and GOP power brokers. Forest warned that EFA would "not get far" if the group filed an ethics complaint against Falkenbury.
Forest was right. The Ethics Commission comission dismissed Falkenbury's request almost immediately.
Still, Falkenbury was furious about EFA exposing his wife's lobbying work. He texted a close friend: “Thankful for you . . .hopefully the crazies (EFA) will get their comeuppance soon." Doing her part, Falkenbury's friend served Rachmuth and EFA with a meritless lawsuit one week after his Ethics Commission dismissal.
The lawyer for Falkenbury's friend? It's none other than Falkenbury's own lawyer and former boss Steven Walker - the same man who facilitated years of Falkenbury's shady self-dealing while working in Dan Forest's administration.