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4:48 pm
Tue June 29, 2010

Grand Jury Indictments Unsealed

Tulsa, OK – It is former Skiatook School Superintendent Gary Johnson who is named in those grand jury indictments handed down last week. Johnson was taken into custody yesterday accused of embezzlement and bribery.

The jury also reported it had "no confidence" in Johnson's interim replacement.

The investigation started in February, when a state audit turned up 750-thousand dollars wasted on over priced supplies.

Skiatook Parent Jason Willingham pushed for the jury inquiry. Willingham hopes the Skiatook school board will become more open.

Steve Burrage today praised the work of the Tulsa County Grand Jury and Skiatook school patrons over a probe into gross overspending at Skiatook Public Schools that resulted in the arrest of former Superintendent Dr. Gary Johnson on two indictments alleging bribery of a public official and embezzlement.

"I'm impressed by the dedication and apparent thoroughness of the Tulsa County Grand Jury to accomplish its work in the short time allotted and I want to offer my appreciation to the Skiatook school patrons who were determined to get the grand jury empanelled," Burrage said. "The people of Oklahoma deserve to know why almost 800,000 of their tax dollars were squandered and whether anyone besides Rick Enos may have benefitted from this blatant abuse of taxpayer funds."

Former Skiatook Superintendent Dr. Gary Johnson's use of a middleman to purchase janitorial supplies and security systems was at the center of an investigative audit released by the State Auditor last February. The audit revealed that Enos, of E&E Sales and Austin Security, did not maintain inventory and was over-charging the Skiatook school district as much as 500 percent over typical retail prices.

"I'm especially grateful the grand jury echoed the message I've been delivering across the state to school board members and others in positions of governance," Burrage said. "Elected and appointed officials are responsible for the financial health of the institution they serve. They should read the annual financial audit and ask questions. It's the Board that's responsible for ensuring adequate systems of checks and balances are in place to process and protect financial transactions."

In its report, the Tulsa County Grand Jury sent a message that should be heeded by all Oklahoma school districts. The panel recommended the board "exercise oversight regarding purchases" and expressed its concern that the Skiatook School Board, administration and school patrons "may not be adequately aware of the school district's indebtedness."

"Look, for me it's simple, know what you're authorizing, document every step, reconcile the books, report errors, put your policies into practice, and segregate the authority in the process," Burrage said. "We know how to keep fraud, waste and abuse from getting out of hand and a board's first act should be to eliminate the opportunity for it to happen."

Burrage has released three investigative audits of Oklahoma school districts this year and in each report he pointed to a lack of oversight by the district's board and too much authority given to a single individual to perform financial transactions. The release of the Broken Arrow and Boynton School District audits are pending.