Last week, I reported on the nonprofit called Education for a Better America, run by Al Sharpton’s daughter Dominique and her boyfriend, Marcus Bright. As I note in the story, EBA’s tax filings show several irregularities that charity watchdogs consider red flags, and the nonprofit’s board refused to answer questions, even though industry best practices demand transparency.
But I want to call attention to additional information I’ve received this week about Bright’s work history and employment status.
A bit of background: I’ve spent hours reporting on this story since March, when I received a tip alleging that, among other things, Ms. Sharpton’s boyfriend was using his time as a public-sector employee at the Miami–Dade County Public Schools and elsewhere to do work for Education for a Better America, as well as National Action Network.
Before my story was published, Bright said he was an adjunct professor at both Florida International University and Lynn University, according to his LinkedIn Page and his EBA bio.
I reached out to both universities in March, asking for information about his attendance and pay. (Before writing this story, I hadn’t known that Lynn University was private.)
Their response wasn’t what I expected.
Lynn University’s spokesperson told me Bright was not listed in the staff directory, adding that as a private school, it did not have to provide the records I’d requested. Meanwhile, the human-resources department at Florida International University told me it was “unable to provide [a] record for the past year for Marcus Bright as he has been inactive since 12/08/2012.”
Before my story ran, I reached out to EBA, Dominique Sharpton, and Marcus Bright for an interview. Ms. Sharpton told me on May 26 that the board had declined my request. But because her personal life, as well as Bright’s, appeared to overlap significantly with their professional dealings at the nonprofit, I reached out yet again to both of them, asking them to reconsider and answer my questions.
My additional queries included a lengthy May 27 e-mail to Bright, in which I told him specifically what Lynn University and Florida International University had said about his employment status, asking him to provide comment and clarification. I also asked questions about every irregularity or potential issue I had found, giving him a day and a half to respond. Bright never answered the e-mail, and on May 29, my article ran.
Non-responsive before my article ran, Bright was vocal after. He tweeted at me: “You made it clear that your intention was not to accurately report anything but to slander and smear,” adding, “Stop your false reporting and slander.”
Again, I reached out to Bright asking for further information or comment on any of the points I had made regarding his work history and the nonprofit. And again, I reached out to representatives at both Lynn University and Florida International University.
Lynn University’s spokesperson, Stephanie Brown, told me by e-mail yesterday morning that she’d discovered adjunct professors were not listed in the corporate directory, even if they did work there. She verified that Bright has taught five graduate courses since August 2014. This is different than what Brown had said back in March, but, obviously, I regret the error.
Meanwhile, the chair of the Department of Public Administration at Florida International University said in an e-mail this week: “I can confirm that Dr. Bright is not adjuncting for us. If he is, it is with another Department.” The program’s coordinator said that “based on the email from HR, it looks like he was last active on 12/08/12, in that case, Fall 2012.”
On June 2, Bright notified National Review by e-mail that his bio entry on the EBA website no longer listed his FIU adjunct position.
With each new wrinkle, I updated the article to reflect the most accurate information available regarding Bright’s work status and history.
Bright offered additional comment in two e-mails.
On June 1, Bright said:
The Board of EBA has declined your interview request and I will abide by that. I have taught public administration at either Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, or Lynn University every year since 2011. It is possible that I could be teaching part time at any of these universities at any given semester. I could be listed as an Adjunct Professor at any of these places depending on the semester. I teach two classes per semester at Lynn University currently because that is all that I can handle with a 40 hour a week job at Miami–Dade County Public Schools and doing EBA work with whatever time is left.
On June 3, Bright sent National Review additional comment by e-mail, saying:
I am not currently teaching this year at Florida Atlantic University but am still listed in their Adjunct Faculty pool. . . . I assumed the same at FIU based on previous conversations and e-mails with FIU personnel. FIU never informed me that I was no longer in their Adjunct Faculty pool.
As we reported, Bright also works as an administrator at Miami–Dade County Public Schools, where he has taken at least eleven paid temporary-duty days, many of which coincide with EBA and NAN events.
The district’s spokesperson says this is an appropriate use of time, and that “Mr. Bright’s responsibilities in the Office of Educational Equity, Access and Diversity include tracking and reporting about new initiatives that are emerging to create access for minority students.” The spokesperson provided statistics showing most of the students within the district are either black or Hispanic.
Reporting on this story and others regarding the Sharptons, I’ve always been meticulous about reaching out to the Sharptons and Marcus Bright for comment.
One final word: EBA still has not addressed the core issues raised, which regard the nonprofit’s dealings and ethics, and about the numerous oddities evident in their tax filings. I have given Bright, as executive director, several opportunities this week to address these questions, reiterating our commitment to accuracy and fairness.
He never has.