BAPD Investigating School District

Tuesday, February 3rd 2009, 10:47 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Detectives delve into the financial mess surrounding Broken Arrow Public Schools.  The Broken Arrow Police Department is now investigating criminal fraud accusations against the district.  It's all tied back to the school system's controversial dealings with a local heating and cooling company.         

"Our goal is to try to determine if violations of state law or federal law occurred. And if they did exactly what statutes were violated," said Broken Arrow Police Major Carole Newell.

A group of taxpayers accused the district of allowing Air Assurance to corner the market and inflate their costs.  That was met by a staunch denial from the heating and cooling company.

Last week, a financial audit, commissioned by the school board, seemed to muddy the waters.  Auditors reported Air Assurance's bills were in order, but the district didn't strictly follow competitive bidding laws.         

Now, detectives seem to be picking up where auditors left off, investigating a December complaint of fraud and embezzlement against Broken Arrow Public Schools.

"We have a tremendous amount of paperwork that we are going through and many, many documents. It takes a while to get through all of those," said Broken Arrow Police Major Carole Newell.

Detectives have interviewed some former school employees, but no current ones.  And, Major Newell says it's too early to tell who's the target of the investigation.

"You know, at this point, we're not sure how many people may, and I want to emphasize the word may, may be involved. It could go all the way up to the top," said Broken Arrow Police Major Carole Newell

No one in the Broken Arrow case has been charged.  And, detectives insist they're merely on a mission to find the truth.

"I want the citizens to know that we're going to do our job and bring this case to full fruition," said Broken Arrow Police Major Carole Newell.  "And, to rest easy knowing that it is being looked into and we're not out to do anything except to find the facts."

The News On 6 contacted Broken Arrow Public Schools to see if administrators were aware of the probe.  They said they were aware of a complaint filed by a citizens group last fall.  Superintendent Dr. Gary Gerber says that anyone, including a citizen group, who has made numerous attempts to disrupt the school district, can file a complaint.

Until now, there have just been allegations of impropriety, but there are discussions about crimes, possibly felonies, being committed.

If it turns out someone broke the law, they could go to jail.