Thursday, June 9, 2011

Possible criminal violation of Open Meeting Act by Broken Arrow School Board being investigated by state attorney general

A state investigatory audit of Broken Arrow Schools uncovered a possible Open Meeting Act violation that is being investigated by the state attorney general for possible prosecution.

The 84-page audit was released Thursday, but all details about the possible violation were redacted while state Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office continues its investigation.

"Once the AG’s office has completed its independent criminal investigation into these specific matters and a conclusion has been reached, those portions of the investigatory audit will be made public," according to a news release by Pruitt's office.

Violations of the Open Meeting Act are a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

Because the audit was requested by the Attorney General's Office to help in an investigation, the audit is considered part of that office's investigation and litigation files and, therefore, may be "kept confidential to preserve the integrity of the investigation until it’s complete or criminal charges are filed," according to the news release.

The audit covered several areas of interest between July 1, 2006, and March 31, 2009. Of the five current school board members, only Shari Wilkins and Sharon Whelpley served during that time.

"Following a thorough review, the Attorney General’s Office found possible criminal violations in at least two areas – open meetings and special favoritism for vendors. The AG’s Office will continue a criminal investigation in these areas, and pursue those criminally responsible, if warranted," according to the news release.

The audit cleared school board members of one alleged Open Meeting Act violation. A former board member was concerned that the board's policy committee had obligated the district for legal fees without proper board approval.

Auditors, however, determined that "no formal policy committee existed at the time" and that the contract for legal services was approved by the full board.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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