Former Seeworth Academy Superintendent Janet Grigg waived her right to a preliminary hearing today in Oklahoma County District Court, and her attorney claimed afterward that the shuttered charter school’s prominent board of directors gave approval for all of her questionable financial actions.
Charged in September 2022, Grigg is facing three felony counts of embezzlement. The Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy closed in 2019, and Grigg was accused in a 2021 state audit of misappropriating more than $250,000 from the school, which was founded to serve at-risk youth affected by the criminal justice system.
Longtime school employees and board members have accused Grigg of gambling heavily at local casinos and misusing funds from Seeworth’s “corporate account,” which was maintained separately from the school’s audited account.
“Grigg used this ‘corporate account’ as a personal spending account utilizing a debit card and checks as a means of purchasing goods, services and writing herself checks on the account to include withdrawing cash from ATM’s at local casinos totaling more than $4,500 and spending over $9,950 on purchases from home shopping retailers (i.e. QVC, HSN) over a period of several years,” the probable cause affidavit against Grigg stated.
After Grigg waived her right to a preliminary hearing with Special Judge Cassandra Williams this afternoon, she declined to comment about the case against her. She now faces her formal arraignment in January.
Griggg’s attorney, Scott Adams, said his office is “going through a bunch of stuff” related to her case.
“We’re looking at some documents but we’ll have a better idea come January,” Adams said. “We feel like she had board approval to do everything she did.”
For nearly 20 years, the board of Seeworth Academy was led by three prominent area attorneys:
- Lee Anne Wilson, an attorney whose mother, Alma Wilson, founded the school and was the first woman on the Oklahoma Supreme Court;
- Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals Judge Barbara Swinton;
- Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC).
State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd’s 2021 report and a variety of documents indicate that Seeworth Academy’s longtime board members had been alerted to allegations about Grigg’s behavior for a decade. In 2012, board members were sued by and ultimately paid a financial settlement to a former principal who alleged racial discrimination and financial mismanagement by Grigg, including “using Seeworth’s federal funds for personal use.”
In another instance related to the 2008-2009 school year, the private accountant hired by the board presented concerning findings about Grigg’s actions — such as the use of school funds to pay her home mortgage — and an overall lack of financial controls.
“I discussed the management letter and the audit comments with the board,” certified public accountant Kerry John Patten wrote in a March 2021 affidavit he provided to state auditors. “The entire time I was at this meeting it seemed tense to me and after I began presenting, one of the board members said something to the effect of “Do we have to listen to this?” I replied that they could either listen to me or read about it in the paper. They listened after that but argued every point. When I left the meeting, I did not feel like I had helped that school at all and that none of my recommendations were likely to be implemented.”
Shortly before the school was ultimately closed for financial and accreditation issues in 2019, the board voted to remove one of its members who had asked questions about a whistleblower letter sent to Swinton, then the board’s chairwoman.
On Tuesday, Grigg’s attorney appeared to support the idea that her actions were known by and supported by Seeworth Academy board members.
“There’s no doubt that she believes — and I believe — that she was board-approved to do everything that she did,” Adams said.
Joe White, an attorney for Swinton, Floyd and Wilson, did not respond to a call seeking comment prior to the publication of this article.
Brook Arbeitman, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Vicki Behenna, declined to comment Tuesday owing to the ongoing nature of the case, which was filed by Behenna’s predecessor, David Prater.