EL RENO — Yukon Public Schools will have to pay nearly $20,000 in lawyers' fees after officials refused to provide a local couple with copies of an investigative report that focused on the district's National FFA Organization program.
Randy and Debbie Wright, who claim they were "skimmed" by former Yukon agriculture teachers for at least $4,000, have been battling with the district for months over open records issues.
The Wrights sued the school district in January after officials refused to turn over an audit of the Yukon vocational agriculture program.
The investigative report — which was completed by Oklahoma City attorney Mark Patzkowski — detailed several issues facing the district's FFA program. The document doesn't include names, but paints a picture of what was going on in one of the state's largest FFA chapters before April 2011.
Among other things, the report shows that district Superintendent Bill Denton ordered the investigation into the district's agriculture program after receiving complaints from parents and other stakeholders.
The complaints ranged from “skimming” by agriculture instructors, who allegedly charged parents far more for livestock than they paid to breeders, to the existence of bank accounts which “commingled private and Program resources and expenditures.”
The report shows that complaints against the agriculture program include allegations of favoritism among students by district staff and an affiliation with a booster club that reportedly has little financial oversight.
Not about money
Randy Wright said he and his wife simply wanted to see the document. They are one of the parents who expressed concerns about the way the FFA program was functioning.
“This was never about the money,” Randy Wright said. “We just want things done right. We don't see any reason why they wanted to keep those documents from us in the first place.”
A Canadian County judge awarded the Wrights $18,203 in legal fees and other costs earlier in the week. The couple, who didn't seek any damages, says they offered to settle with the school district for $15,000 but their offer was rejected.
Attempts to reach Yukon Public School officials to comment on this story were not successful. Emails and messages left Friday on Denton's personal cellphone were not returned.
In the past, Denton said Yukon school officials refused to release the report on the advice of an attorney. When the report was finally released — roughly six months after the Wrights requested it — Denton described it as “a relief.”
“It's a relief, I know, for our board, and myself, to be able to release this,” Denton said at the time. “I wish more people could understand why we weren't able to do that and go against the advice of our legal counsel.”