Grand Jury Investigating Skiatook Schools Hands Down Two Criminal Indictments

Saturday, June 26th 2010, 4:59 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

SKIATOOK, OK -- A spending scandal at a Green Country school district leads to two criminal indictments. 

The grand jury investigating Skiatook Public Schools wrapped up early Saturday morning. They handed down two sealed indictments, an accusation and a report blasting the school district's current leadership.

The grand jury met every day for the last three weeks, interviewing dozens of witnesses. Their investigation didn't only return criminal indictments, but an indictment of Skiatook schools' previous and current administrations.

It's been a tough year for Skiatook Public Schools. First, a state audit released in February blasted the district for wasting more than half a million dollars of taxpayer money.

Then, they ousted their superintendent Dr. Gary Johnson.

Parents waged a petition to call a grand jury. And now that jury says two people will face criminal charges.

The grand jury issued a five-page report that says the Skiatook School Board should review its policies and procedures, hire a new district lawyer and warned board members there's still potential for waste, or even theft.

On top of all that, jurors say they have no confidence in interim superintendent Steve Williams. They claim he didn't understand the duties of his job, and didn't know enough about the district's finances. They also say he didn't know how to track federal grants, and he never confronted his old boss Gary Johnson when custodial funds were being overspent.

Read the Skiatook grand jury report, obtained by The News On 6 from a Skiatook parent.

Skiatook parents who've been outraged by the scandal say they now feel vindicated.

"It's extremely disappointing to know that our fears are coming true," said Jason Willingham, a Skiatook parent.

"It doesn't make us happy of course because it's a sad state of affairs that led us here, but it looked like - many times where there's smoke there's fire," said Rob Ridenour, a Skiatook parent.

The grand jury came about because some Skiatook parents were fed up. Citizens wanted answers and started a petition to call a grand jury.

"They find that there appears to be criminal acts that took place. It's a sad thing. But we thought that there might be and now the grand jury agrees with our thinking," said Ridenour.

"We're extremely happy on one hand, but disappointed on the other," said Willingham.

Both men say this is an embarrassment for their school district. But they also say this should be a lesson to other elected officials and other communities.

"From every level of public officials, should take notice here that the community can do something," said Willingham.

"To show our children, if something is wrong, you can either do something about it or you can sit there and cry. And we did something about it," Ridenour said.

6/22/2010  Related Story: Motions Filed To Dissolve Skiatook Grand Jury