District is 'corrupt,' grand jury suggests

By Randy Ellis Published: September 6, 2008
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A "culture of corruption” continues to taint the Kiamichi Technology Center School District despite indictments and lengthy investigations, a state grand jury said in a report issued Friday.

The grand jury noted it was the second multicounty grand jury to investigate criminal misuse of public property at the school district, which has 10 campuses and encompasses most of the southeastern quarter of the state.

Walt Haskins, attorney for the Kiamichi school district, countered by issuing a news release Friday. He accused Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office of using the grand jury "for political rather than investigatory purposes.”

Haskins alleged the attorney general's office led the grand jury to indict board members because the attorney general was "in league with powerful state legislators.”

He claimed legislators were upset with board members because they refused to continue to allow them to use Kiamichi as a "source of political patronage jobs for friends and relatives.”

"If the attorney general's office is truly interested in finding a ‘culture of corruption,' it need only look to its own relationship with those legislators who have stirred this pot,” Haskins wrote.

Allegations surfacing again
Two grand juries have alleged school district employees diverted public property to support political campaigns.

They also alleged that people under investigation joined with others to "impede or block or punish witnesses giving evidence regarding the crimes being investigated.”

"We are concerned that a culture of corruption remains in the Kiamichi School District,” the grand jury said in its report.

The grand jury blamed the extraordinary size of the career technology district for contributing to the problem by creating a "great political force within that section of the state. Read the press release from the Kiamichi Technology...

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Final report is revealing as state grand jury disbands
A state grand jury that heard testimony about the fatal shooting of two girls near Weleetka said in a final report, "These types of cases are tough.”

No new indictments were issued Friday as grand jurors wrapped up their work and disbanded.

The 11th state multicounty grand jury met for 41 days over 19 months. It indicted 16 people.

Grand jurors revealed they helped out in dozens of homicide cases.

"The grand jury heard testimony from witnesses in six different homicide cases. However, the grand jury assisted in a total of 52 homicide, missing person or cold case investigations in some way,” the final report said.

"These types of cases are tough. Furtherance of any homicide investigation through the grand jury's involvement is of major significance if there is any possibility that the list of suspects will be narrowed or the crime will ultimately be solved.”

Grand jurors heard from six witnesses this week in an effort to help solve the June shooting of friends Taylor Placker, 13, and Skyla Whitaker, 11. The grand jury's final report did not specifically address their deaths.

Grand jurors also helped in that case and others by subpoenaing documents such as cell phone records. The grand jury issued almost 2,500 subpoenas, a record, since it was formed last year.

Grand jurors investigated other types of crimes including public corruption, drug violations, adoption fraud and fraudulent claims for state payments. Assistants to Attorney General Drew Edmondson guide the probes.

Grand jurors called for reforms to eliminate "a culture of corruption” at the Kiamichi Technology Center School District in southeastern Oklahoma. Grand jurors reported public property there has been misused for political purposes.

Grand jurors also called on district attorneys to keep drug task forces in operation but tighten up procedures to prevent embezzlement of funds.

A new grand jury could be formed in a few months.

Staff Writer Nolan Clay

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