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Oklahoma Youth Expo won't release audit performed last year, director says

Despite providing millions in taxpayer money to the Oklahoma Youth Expo over the past decade, the state Agriculture Department has not received a copy of an independent audit performed on the private charity last year.
by Andrew Knittle Published: March 10, 2013

“No ... law has been passed by the Legislature specifically authorizing the State, through and of its agencies or officials, to give or in any manner provide the Youth Expo with $2 million of public funds,” the lawsuit states.

Another lawsuit, filed in January by Reynolds, is seeking to recover $2,342,750 in taxpayer money given to the expo by the agriculture department since 2010.

The second suit alleges that the expo does not provide the state Agriculture Department with “valuable consideration” enough to justify the millions in taxpayer money the agency has given the organization.

The suit also questions the stability of the expo, which does not have to provide records to the public upon request.

“The private nature of Youth Expo ... shows that it operates free of any control or management of or by any officer or agency of the state,” the suit states. “Upon information and belief, Youth Expo has been operating under financial deficiencies.

“The $2 million payment to Youth Expo resembles a financial ‘bailout.'”

The state Agriculture Department has been giving money to the Oklahoma Youth Expo since 2002.

In all, the state agency has given the private charity $4,450,000, including $1 million in 2008 to establish an endowment for former Executive Director Justin Whitefield, who died in a plane crash in November 2006.

Both suits are pending in Oklahoma County District Court, records show.

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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