Commentary: Billionaire Bill Koch makes good on “exhaustive investigation” into Oxbridge

Bill Koch
Bill Koch

Give it to Bill Koch. The Palm Beach billionaire made good on his pledge to undertake “an exhaustive investigation” into allegations that his elite Oxbridge Academy was, behind the scenes, an oppressive place to work, rife with firings, high turnover, accusations of sexual harassment and a dispiriting swing from academics to athletics.

On Friday, Koch announced that CEO Robert Parsons had been asked to step down and that athletics director Craig Sponsky  and football coach Doug Socha will be gone by fall.

Parsons and Sponsky have been on paid leave since April, amid an investigation by Post reporter Tony Doris. At the same time, Koch ordered an investigation by a team that included an ex-FBI agent, a forensic accountant and the school’s employment law firm.

The move had to be painful for Koch, who personally selected Parsons to open the West Palm Beach school, which he founded in 2011. As Doris wrote:

Koch hand-picked Parsons to open the school, luring him with a compensation package that totaled $1,138,156 in 2012, including residence in a Wellington house rented for him by Oxbridge Academy Foundation, Inc. The most recent federal filings by the nonprofit school listed Parsons’ compensation as $694,540 during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Nationally, the median base salary for a head of a school that belongs to the National Association of Independent Schools was $230,000 in 2015-16.

The school’s bookstore manager, Ulle Boshko, had also been placed on paid leave when Parsons and Sponsky were. She had alleged that she had been demoted from comptroller to bookshop manager because she had refused Parson’s advances. Koch had said Boshko was placed on leave “because she’s the source of a lot of these allegations.” There was no immediate word Friday on whether she would be reinstated.

Koch, whose father Fred C. Koch founded Koch Industries, a business empire based on oil refineries, estimates he has invested $75 million to $100 million to make Oxbridge — its name a mashup of the famed British universities Oxford and Cambridge — into one of the nation’s best schools. Tuition is $31,000 per school year, though many students receive financial aid as part of Koch’s desire to foster a diverse student body.

Sometimes called the “other Koch brother,” he has a history of feuds with his siblings David and Charles Koch, who have become famous as politically active bankrollers of conservative causes. Bill Koch’s own politics appear more mixed: he has given money to Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bill Nelson as well as the Republican Party of Florida and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

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