A preliminary hearing kicked off Monday afternoon in Osage County District Court for ex-Pawhuska High School football coach Scotty Ray Gilkey, who is charged with embezzlement of proceeds from football-related activities held prior to his abbreviated 2012 season at the helm of the Huskies.
Testimony heard in the case came from Landon Berry, the Superintendent of Pawhuska Public Schools, and former assistant football coach Ray Ratzlaff. Both witnesses claimed Gilkey told them the funds raised at a summer fireworks stand that Gilkey family members were operating would be benefiting the PHS football program.
Dr. Berry said Gilkey originally told him that $2,500 of the fireworks revenue would be placed into a special football account controlled by school district officials. The superintendent said that when he later questioned Gilkey about proceeds from the stand “he could not account for where any of the money was.”
The preliminary testimony concluded with Special Judge Stuart Tate declaring the hearing in recess until April 10. At that time, at least one other person is expected to take the stand. A third witness who had been subpoenaed was unavailable Monday due to her participation on a spring-break trip with the PHS baseball team.
Pointing out that he did not take over as Pawhuska superintendent until July 2012, Berry said he was not informed about the fireworks stand by Gilkey until after it had ceased operations. He said that no proposal about the stand had ever been presented for consideration by him or the school board.
“Did you ask (Gilkey) where the money went?,” District Attorney Rex Duncan inquired of the superintendent.
“He more or less told me he didn’t know,” Berry replied.
The superintendent suspended Gilkey from his coaching duties in early November, three days before the Huskies concluded their season with an opening-round loss in the Class 2A state playoffs.
Ratzlaff said he was fired from the football coaching staff after questioning Gilkey about proceeds from the fireworks stand. He said he had talked to Gilkey about the fundraising project while visiting the stand with family members. Although a sign at the site indicated the stand was “for PHS football,” Ratzlaff said he later began to “wonder if the funds were being deposited in the school account.”
The longtime assistant coach said he discovered that checks his wife had written at the fireworks stand were endorsed by Gilkey’s wife, Jennifer, and that they had been deposited into a private account at a Bartlesville credit union.
Ratzlaff said when he and another coach confronted Gilkey about the fireworks-stand funds in late July or August, “he told us that it was none of our business where the money went or what it was used for.”
“He said he would do whatever he wanted to with the money,” recalled Ratzlaff, adding that, in October, “Mr. Gilkey decided to fire me.”
Aletia Timmons, the attorney representing the Gilkeys, then asked Ratzlaff why he had been fired.
“Did you tell kids that you would have him (Gilkey) fired?,” the defense attorney inquired.
“No,” Ratzlaff answered.
“So, if someone said you did, would they be lying?,” Timmons continued.
“Yes, they would,” replied Ratzlaff.
The two witnesses testified for a little more than an hour before the hearing was recessed. When court resumes next month following the 24-day delay, the third witness scheduled to take the stand will be PHS booster club officer Jon Marie Wilson, court records show.
Jennifer Gilkey is charged along with her husband in a seven-count misdemeanor charge of embezzlement. The misdemeanor cases will trail the felony proceedings, Judge Tate ruled. After the charges were filed last May, Scotty Gilkey was released from custody on bonds totaling $4,000 while his wife was freed for a $1,500 amount.
Court records made Monday stated that Gilkey’s $2,500 bond in the felony case has been exonerated.