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Yukon vo-ag program faces allegations of 'skimming'

The vocational agriculture program operating within the Yukon School District has been accused of ripping off — or “skimming,” as it's called — at least six parents of thousands of dollars since 2010. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is finalizing a report in the inquiry.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: May 31, 2012 at 8:49 pm •  Published: May 31, 2012

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is close to turning over a report to prosecutors detailing alleged embezzlement within Yukon School District's vocational agriculture program, an inspector with the agency said.

The vocational agriculture program operating at the Yukon School District, which is among the largest in the state, has fallen under suspicion in recent months amid fraud allegations leveled against at least two former district employees.

Bob Harshaw, an OSBI inspector, confirmed the investigation has been ongoing for nearly a year and that it was requested by the Yukon Police Department last June.

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.”

“We're in the final stages,” Harshaw said. “We're finalizing a report which will be turned over to the Canadian County district attorney's office ... within a week to 10 days.”

Harshaw did not name anyone in connection with the investigation during a phone interview with The Oklahoman.

Bill Denton, superintendent of the Yukon School District, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Lawsuit may shed light

While OSBI agents won't comment on every detail of the investigation, a lawsuit filed in January may shed additional light on the situation.

Filed in civil court by the parents of a former Yukon student, the lawsuit alleges that former agriculture teachers Mac Devilbiss and Jason Bow cheated some district parents out of thousands of dollars by overcharging for show steers and other livestock purchased from an Oklahoma ranch.

Devilbiss, who is now retired, was an agriculture teacher at Yukon schools for 40 years, while Bow joined the program in 2004.

Bow resigned his position toward the end of the last school year, according to an agenda for the Yukon School Board dated May 2, 2011.

Randy and Debbie Wright, whose daughter attended Yukon schools and was a part of the agriculture program, filed a lawsuit against the school district when they learned administrators had hired an attorney to look into the agriculture program but then declined to make the findings available to the public.

“That is all we are trying to get,” Randy Wright said. “We just want that report.”

The Wrights accuse the Yukon School Board of violating state open meeting and open records laws by withholding the report, which was prepared by attorney Mark Patzkowski after he was hired by the district.

Laura Holmes, an attorney representing Yukon Public Schools, said the district “denies that it violated the Open Meeting Act or Open Records Act and will not discuss the specifics of the case or the allegations made by the Wrights as the matter is currently in litigation.

“The district asserts that the report is confidential under the Open Records Act because it concerns personnel matters and because it involves attorney-client communications which are privileged,” Holmes said. “The district will let a court decide whether Mr. Patzkowski's report is privileged and confidential and whether there was any violation of the Open Meeting or Open Records Act.”

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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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