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Allegations of wrongdoing in Henryetta spark audit by state of Oklahoma

Allegations of wrongdoing by Henryetta city officials have prompted the state auditor’s office to open an investigation.
by Randy Ellis Modified: August 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: August 10, 2014

Allegations of wrongdoing and harassment by Henryetta city officials have prompted the state auditor’s office to open an investigation.

Among other things, auditors will be looking into allegations of misappropriation of grant funds intended for the city’s $9.5 million water treatment system, possible violations of the Oklahoma Open Meeting and Open Records Acts and alleged improprieties linked to dual office holding by a former city manager/city fire marshal, confirmed State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.

The audit is in response to a successful citizen’s petition spearheaded by longtime Henryetta City Hall critic Howard (Buck) Sheward.

“I’ve been run through the mill,” Sheward, 70, said of his treatment by Henryetta police officers and other officials. “I’ve had two protective orders filed on me. They’ve served me papers at 2:30 in the morning, beating on the door like a drug raid. I’ve had two citations when I was getting signatures for this petition — one for not parking close enough to the curb and one for being on the wrong side of the road of a dead end street.

“They’ve harassed and persecuted me for raising questions,” he said, adding that city officials have refused to respond to 13 Open Records Act requests he has made since October.

Henryetta City Manager Ted Graham, who has only held that position for 10 months, said Sheward has a history of antagonizing city officials by berating them in public and making demands staffers believe are unreasonable, like repeatedly submitting onerous Open Records Act requests.

“Since I’ve been here, he hasn’t followed the process laid out by the city and the city attorney,” Graham said. “Since they’ve had four years of interaction with this gentleman, they had a set process laid out for him. I think we’ve complied with most of them. Some of them I think are unreasonable, so we haven’t been able to meet those.”

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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