Attorney General's Office Launches Criminal Probe into Broken Arrow Schools

Friday, August 27th 2010, 12:35 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is requesting another audit into Broken Arrow Public Schools to investigate the possibility of criminal misconduct.

The AG's office sent a letter to the auditor Friday that says it received a complaint of possible illegal conduct at the school district between July of 2006 and March of 2009.

The letter says the Attorney General's office has reviewed the complaint, conducted an interview, "and have concluded that an investigative audit for criminal and other types of misconduct should be conducted."

The Broken Arrow School Board requested an audit of the district's financial dealings about a year and a half ago, when questions were raised about its relationship with a vendor, Air Assurance.

The school district was accused of violating competitive bidding laws and giving Air Assurance preferential treatment. The auditor's office is expected to release that audit, next Thursday, although an early draft has been leaked.

8/18/2010 Related Story: Broken Arrow School Parent Upset Results Of State Audit Not Yet Public

The Broken Arrow School board is set to meet in a closed door session with the state auditor's office two days before the official release on September 2, 2010.

This would be the second set of exit interviews for board members.

The school board met in three groups with state auditors last Wednesday to go over the results of the audit. They were not allowed to keep a copy. The board's attorneys were present.

The state auditor says by law he's required to present the audit to the school board and wait for two weeks before releasing it to the public.

Broken Arrow's Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall released a statement at the time that said the district "would use the next two weeks to provide additional information and clarification to the auditor."

The auditor's office has now scheduled another round of exit interviews with the Broken Arrow School Board for next Tuesday, August 31, 2010.

A spokesperson for the state auditor says two exit interviews are not entirely unusual. He states the Oklahoma Department of Education, Tulsa County, Cleveland County, Atoka County, Osage County, Grant County, Caddo County, and several EMS district audits all had two or more exit interviews.

This is not expected to delay the public release of the audit report.

An Oklahoma City radio station has released an early draft of the investigative audit into Broken Arrow Public Schools. Broken Arrow's school board requested the audit after concerns were raised about its relationship with its heating and cooling vendor.

KTOK Radio is reporting a preliminary audit alleges the school district had a multi-million dollar relationship with its heating and cooling vendor, Air Assurance, that violated competitive bidding laws.

KTOK reports "the audit alleged that in one six year period, from 2003 until May of 2008, the school district paid Air Assurance more than $3.1 million for repairs, replacement and preventive maintenance to the school systems or heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. And the audit alleges that in many cases, the work was carried out before being approved by school district administrators."

State Auditor Steve Burrage is blasting the release if the draft, calling it "unprofessional and irresponsible."

"It's unfortunate, unprofessional and possibly unlawful that someone deliberately sought to undermine the authority and integrity of the State Auditor's office by releasing a draft of this special audit," Burrage said.

"Sadly, the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the ongoing controversy at Broken Arrow Public Schools has turned this normally routine process into a spectacle."

Broken Arrow Public Schools has been under investigation for more than a year and a half.

The State Auditor is slated to release the results of his audit next Thursday, September 2, 2010. 

The owners of Air Assurance, Mike and Narissa Rampey, released a statement Friday afternoon.

Dear Employees and Customers:

We write to you today to inform you some information about our company in the media is completely untrue. We still await the official audit to be released from the State Auditor's office; however, media outlets are reporting information about our company that is inaccurate and this letter is to correct some of those issues. An alleged draft of the report is stating misinformation -- specifically on the website for KTOK, an Oklahoma City-based radio station.

In the 18 months that it took the State Auditor's office to conduct its audit of the Broken Arrow Public Schools, we find it ironic that our company was never contacted by anyone from the auditor's office. Had someone from the auditor's office contacted our company we would have been able to clear up the many inaccuracies being reported in the alleged leaked draft of the auditor's report.

For example, it is being reported that Air Assurance is an out-of-state owned company. This is totally untrue. Narissa and I are the owners of Air Assurance and we have owned and lived in Broken Arrow for more than 20 years.

Another allegation is that we completed work without proof of insurance or completing a bid. Both of those allegations are incorrect. We have maintained adequate and compliant insurance coverage and submitted proof to the school every year. We also have proof of submitting a bid pursuant to an RFP. We never completed any work for the school system without having a purchase order in advance.

Additionally, the KTOK website states we had keys to the school buildings implying a violation of law or school policy. In fact, the school district issued our company access keys so we could immediately respond to any heating and air conditioning maintenance issues that occurred. During our many years of service to the district at no time was a security issue or complaint ever shared with us. This procedure allowed our company to promptly correct the problem so that it did not interfere with the school day. We are proud that in the 15 years of our company providing service to the Broken Arrow Schools there was never an issue of safety violations. We were careful and diligent to avoid carbon monoxide leaks or any other heating and air conditioning dangers that could hurt the students. We took pride in our ability to provide a safe learning environment for the children of Broken Arrow.

We thank you for being a part of our family and standing by our company. Free speech and open media is a constitutional right which we respect and support; however, we also have the right to set the record straight.

Have a great weekend,

Mike and Narissa Rampey