The Bay Area Technology School, a charter school in Oakland, California, was thrown into chaos and confusion when the principal suddenly resigned and left the country amid a financial investigation.

The school is believed to be part of the Gulen charter network associated with the reclusive imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania, because of the unusual number of Turkish board members.

Just before the end of the last school year, the principal of Oakland’s Bay Area Technology School, Hayri Hatipoglu, suddenly resigned. At least four other senior staff and two of the charter school’s five board members also abruptly quit. As a result, the organization was thrown into chaos. And then Hatipoglu disappeared. According to several sources, he left the country with his family for Australia, where he is a citizen.

Afterwards, the Oakland Unified School District, which is responsible for overseeing the BayTech charter school, opened an investigation. BayTech’s three remaining board members also hired an independent party to carry out their own internal review.

While OUSD and BayTech have both attempted to keep the mini-crisis under wraps, the Express has learned that BayTech’s three remaining board members are accusing Hatipoglu of defrauding the school. They allege that Hatipoglu surreptitiously changed his employment contract to provide himself with three years’ worth of severance pay totaling about $450,000, an unusually large sum for a small school with an annual budget of approximately $3 million. His previous contract provided for only six months of severance pay, a standard in the education sector.

“We believe he changed his contract,” said BayTech board member Fatih Dagdelen in a recent interview. “According to his contract, he’d get paid a six-months salary if he resigned, but all of a sudden his contract said he’d get paid two-and-a-half years further.”

Remaining board members suspect fraud.

In an unusual and unsolicited email to the Express sent on June 28, Hatipoglu wrote that the school’s Turkish board members conspired to punish him for his decision to break ties with a Southern California-based nonprofit. The nonprofit, Accord Institute, happens to be controlled by the followers of a powerful Turkish imam who leads a global Islamic political force called the Gülen movement.

Founded in the 1970s by the religious leader Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen movement is an Islamic-inspired social and political force that globalized as its followers immigrated to Europe, Australia, and the United States. The Turkish government considers the Gülen movement a terrorist organization because its members helped organize the 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Erdogan, and Erdogan has ordered thousands of Gülenists jailed. (The U.S. government, however, does not classify the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.) Fethullah Gülen currently lives in self-exile in Pennsylvania, but he’s considered one of the most powerful men in Turkish politics. His followers also set up and operate one of the largest chains of charter schools in the U.S. BayTech is one of these schools.

Might I suggest that these events are evidence that public schools that are funded by taxpayers should be subject to public supervision and oversight–not by private and unaccountable boards– and should be staffed by certified teachers and other staff? Charter schools in California operate without any accountability or transparency, which is an open invitation to rob taxpayers.