YUKON — A recent news release from Yukon Public Schools lauded its superintendent for his years of service and role in getting a $92.4 million bond issue passed to build a “world-class” high school.
But the announcement of Bill Denton's plans to retire in summer 2014 comes at a time when the district's vocational agriculture program is being scrutinized by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, an inquiry that could result in criminal charges.
The district also lost an open records lawsuit last year and was ordered to pay a local couple nearly $20,000 after refusing to release an investigative report that pointed out numerous flaws in the district's vocational agriculture program.
In addition, the district has drawn the attention of the state auditor and inspector's office but isn't currently under investigation by the agency,
Denton and the district have been named as defendants in at least four civil lawsuits since 2010.
One lawsuit alleges the superintendent, school district and several current and former vocational agriculture instructors allowed two students to be bullied on a routine basis.
A former school counselor is suing the district and Denton for wrongful termination.
A third lawsuit, which already has cost the district an $18,000 judgment, was filed after a local couple tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of an investigative report that looked into the Yukon vocational agriculture program.
Bob Harshaw, an OSBI inspector, confirmed to The Oklahoman in May that the agency had been looking into Yukon's vocational agriculture program nearly a year at that point. He said it was requested by the Yukon Police Department in June 2011.
Harshaw said the OSBI is investigating Yukon's agriculture program over allegations that staffers inflated prices for livestock sold to some of the district's agriculture students, a practice known as “skimming.”
The bureau has yet to submit its investigative report to the Canadian County district attorney, who could possibly file criminal charges against those involved.
State Auditor Gary Jones said he's been contacted by private individuals regarding Yukon Public Schools and its superintendent, but he said an official investigation has yet to be launched.
“There have been some individuals furnish us with information, but we are not doing anything with it right now,” Jones said.