YUKON — A couple who sued Yukon Public Schools to get their hands on an investigative report says they're not sure whether to pursue criminal charges against the district for allegedly violating the state's open meetings and records laws.
Randy and Debbie Wright, whose daughter attended Yukon schools until the family had a falling out with the district's vocational agriculture program, won a judgment against the governing body in late June.
Bill Denton, superintendent of Yukon Public Schools, released an investigative report into the school's agriculture program Friday. He said the school board voted to do so, a claim the Wrights dispute.
If charges are filed, they would come through the Yukon Police Department, the family said.
“We are seriously contemplating it, but we haven't made a final decision yet,” the Wrights said in a statement. “There are a lot of things to consider and we are still discussing the options.”
The statement from the Wrights says they are upset with the way the district has handled the entire situation. The couple have been trying to get the investigative report for months. They've spent about $20,000 on legal bills, which will likely have to be paid by Yukon Public Schools.
“The district is making it seem like they are relieved about the decision and welcomed it,” the Wrights said. “Nothing is further from the truth ... the board members and their attorney fought very hard to keep this report private.”
Indeed, Denton did convey a sense of relief last week during an interview with The Oklahoman.
“It's a relief, I know, for our board, and myself, to be able to release this,” Denton said last week. “I wish more people could understand why we weren't able to do that and go against the advice of our legal counsel.”
Denton said the report was withheld by the district on the advice of its attorney. He cited personnel matters and possible litigation as reasons for not releasing the report.
The report shows several possible misdeeds by current and former Yukon Public Schools employees. Parts of the report suggest that agriculture teachers were overcharging certain parents for livestock purchased from Oklahoma breeders, a practice known as “skimming.”
The report also shows that district employees were using bank accounts that mixed personal and district funds — and often had no documentation as to how money was spent.
Yukon police chief John Corn said he hasn't been approached about investigating the district for open meetings violations. Violating the state's open meeting and records laws is a misdemeanor.
Corn said such an investigation would mean venturing into new territory for the department.
“I don't think we've ever investigated a case involving open records ... and I've been here 25 years,” he said. “But nobody's solicited law enforcement's involvement. Nobody has even tried to make a formal complaint.”
Allegations of “skimming” and other possible misconduct within the school district have drawn the attention of multiple state agencies.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has been looking into Yukon's agriculture program for a year.
Jessica Brown, an OSBI spokeswoman, said the bureau will soon submit its findings to the Canadian County district attorney's office. She said agents are nearly finished with the report, but must give priority to more violent crimes.
The state auditor and inspector office also is aware of the situation in Yukon.
State Auditor Gary Jones said “patrons of the district” have contacted his office, although he can't do anything until his agency's services are formally requested. He said certain elected officials or local district attorneys usually make such requests, although an audit can be commissioned by citizen petition.
“There's a patron of the school district that's provided us with quite a bit of information,” Jones said. “But we can't initiate an audit on our own. We have received no formal request.”
I don't think we've ever investigated a case involving open records ... and I've been here 25 years.”