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Open records are at the heart of dispute between Yukon couple, school district

Randy and Debbie Wright, of Yukon, Oklahoma, weren't open records “experts” a couple of years ago. That changed when they began to suspect they were being taken advantage of by a Yukon Public Schools instructor.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: February 9, 2013 at 1:14 am •  Published: February 11, 2013

Randy and Debbie Wright never expected to become open records experts. That changed two years ago when the couple began to suspect they were being taken advantage of by a Yukon High School instructor.

Today, in a spare bedroom of their otherwise-spotless house, stacks of documents spill across the carpeted floor, and more boxes and files cover a coffee table and chairs, evidence of the couple's recent immersion in the Open Records Act.

In 2011, the Wrights had discovered that a former Yukon vocational agriculture instructor, Jason Bow, had overcharged them thousands of dollars for a show steer for their daughter, then a student at the high school.

They found others in the program also may have been overcharged.

The Wrights said they first took their suspicions to Superintendent Bill Denton.

“I trusted him, at that point,” Debbie Wright said. “He told us he would handle it.”

The district hired Oklahoma City fraud examiner and attorney Mark Patzkowski to investigate the district's vocational agriculture program, among the largest in the state.

But when Patzkowski submitted the completed report to Denton and Yukon School Board members, district officials decided to keep the document private on the advice of an attorney, Denton said.

Started on Google

As president and a co-owner of Yukon National Bank and a former member of the state Corrections Board, Randy Wright knew a little about open records.

“I knew nothing,” Debbie Wright said. “I just started to Google it and went from there.”

She began to pepper the district with open records requests, was initially ignored and then received material that wasn't responsive to her requests, she said.

After months of feeling stonewalled by the district — which steadfastly refused to turn over Patzkowski's report — the couple filed an open records lawsuit against Yukon Public Schools in January 2012.

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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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