Education Funding

Ed. Dept. Official Grilled Over Tax, Conflict of Interest Allegations

By The Associated Press — February 09, 2016 2 min read
Danny Harris, the chief information officer for the U.S. Department of Education, testifies on Capitol Hill over an Inspector General’s report that looked into his personal business and tax issues.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Lawmakers on the House Government and Oversight Committee are probing tax and conflict of interest allegations against the U.S. Department of Education’s chief information officer—and that could create headaches for acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., who was called to testify in Congress on the issue last week.

Danny Harris, the department’s CIO, ran a side business installing home theaters and detailing cars, according to the Associated Press. He didn’t report about $10,000 in income from that business in public disclosure forms, or on his taxes. And he made a $4,000 loan to one of his subordinates and allegedly helped a relative get a job at the department, according to the Education Department’s Inspector General.

Harris was asked about those issues by lawmakers on the House oversight committee Feb. 2, and after the hearing concluded, he collapsed and was taken to the hospital for a time.

Cybersecurity Team

Harris is a part of a team that oversees cybersecurity at the department, an issue that the House oversight panel looked into in November. The committee found that while the department holds 139 million Social Security numbers, it is “vulnerable to security threats,” according to an Inspector General’s report. The department’s system also failed a key part of a test performed as part of an audit.

Harris—who is a career civil servant, not an Obama administration appointee—was investigated for the tax issues by the IG a few years ago, he told the committee, according to prepared testimony.

In written testimony, Harris also said he didn’t help a relative get a job at the department, just inquired to see if there were positions available. He also said he didn’t use his influence to get a friend a contracting position. And he’s refiled his tax forms.

Harris has been counseled by the department about his actions, but isn’t expected to receive further punishment.

King said in prepared testimony that Harris’ actions reflect “a serious lack of judgment.” And even though King’s predecessors had already taken action, King also talked to Harris about these “serious matters.” Harris, he said, “expressed profound remorse” for his actions.

Committee Pushback

But that didn’t fly with some lawmakers.

“It’s your leadership that’s on the line. Is it appropriate to have outside income and not report it?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the committee, asked King.

And at least one Democrat wasn’t satisfied with King’s answers.

“Where’s the stick as opposed to just the pat? How do people know that they can’t be involved in this behavior?” asked Democrat Stacey Plaskett, the delegate from the Virgin Islands. “That’s just a way to keep your job.”

In response, King noted, “after the counseling, the activities ended” and that the department’s general counsel’s office had found no violation of law, regulation, or policy. He also said the department has “made tremendous progress” in the area of cybersecurity.

King is also facing challenges in other corners of Congress—Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is unhappy that he hasn’t been officially confirmed. King has said it’s up to the president to decide whether to submit his nomination to the U.S. Senate. And he has noted that an acting secretary has all the same powers as one that’s been confirmed.

Assistant Editor Alyson Klein contributed to this article.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2016 edition of Education Week as Ed. Dept. CIO Grilled By Oversight Panel


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Reported Essay Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?
Schools are increasingly being saddled with new responsibilities. At what point do we decide they are being overwhelmed?
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Education Funding Interactive Look Up How Much COVID Relief Aid Your School District is Getting
The federal government gave schools more than $190 billion to help them recover from the pandemic. But the money was not distributed evenly.
2 min read
Education Funding Explainer Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds
How much did your district get in pandemic emergency aid? When must the money be spent? Is there more on the way? EdWeek has the answers.
11 min read
090221 Stimulus Masks AP BS
Dezirae Espinoza wears a face mask while holding a tube of cleaning wipes as she waits to enter Garden Place Elementary School in Denver for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic.
David Zalubowski/AP
Education Funding Why Dems' $82 Billion Proposal for School Buildings Still Isn't Enough
Two new reports highlight the severe disrepair the nation's school infrastructure is in and the crushing district debt the lack of federal and state investment has caused.
4 min read
Founded 55 years ago, Foust Elementary received its latest update 12-25 years ago for their HVAC units. If the school receives funds from the Guilford County Schools bond allocation, they will expand classrooms from the back of the building.
Community members in Guilford, N.C. last week protested the lack of new funding to improve the district's crumbling school facilities.
Abby Gibbs/News & Record via AP