The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction says it has reopened its investigation into Garfield High School guidance counselor Ray Willis after learning new information about Willis' financial dealings.
The state superintendent’s office has reopened its investigation into Garfield High School guidance counselor Ray Willis’ financial dealings after officials received new information related to allegations, outlined in a Seattle Times last week, that Willis used his school connections to attract investors in his companies.
The Office of Professional Practices (OPP) said last week that it had dismissed its seven-month inquiry into the moral character of Willis because state investigators could find no evidence that financial problems were connected to his work at Garfield.
The office opened its probe after Seattle Public Schools filed a complaint that Willis’ financial improprieties might have violated the “good moral character” requirements. Willis had previously been fined $37,000 by state regulators for fraudulently selling securities without a license.
The investigation was reopened Friday, OPP director Catherine Slagle said Tuesday. Reopening an investigation is rare; it’s happened with only two out of 711 investigations in the past eight years, according to Slagle.
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In The Seattle Times story, Garfield parents said Willis had talked to them about his skin-care business AuJeune and health-care company Ra Ghala. One parent said his daughter, who was on Willis’ caseload, invested $1,200 of her own money into AuJeune. Another said she invested $1,000 and listened to Willis pitch the companies at her home.
Investigators weren’t aware of those allegations until they read about them in the newspaper, Slagle said. No state investigator ever contacted the parents.
“We didn’t even know they existed,” Slagle said. “Their names weren’t ever provided to us, so they weren’t on our radar as anybody to contact for interviews.”
Under Washington law, educators are prohibited from requiring or pressuring students to purchase equipment, supplies or services that benefit them financially.
OPP has sent a subpoena to Seattle Public Schools and contacted Willis’ attorney as part of reopening the investigation, Slagle said. Investigators will be setting up interviews with the Garfield parents, she added.
Willis didn’t respond to messages Tuesday from The Seattle Times seeking comment.