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An Oklahoma County official won't discuss role in will which may not reflect deceased's final wishes


Scott Cooper June 17th, 2010

It was a glorious day for workers and patrons of the Red Cross of Central Oklahoma. The organization's memorial gardens near Lincoln and N.E. Sixth Street were being renamed as a dedication to a very ...

VynommaWilliamArgo_7-06x7-94cm
had never met Sullivan until the day of his aunt's funeral, and it took only minutes for hatred to seethe.

"I sensed something was wrong at the funeral when Leonard Sullivan stood there and said he was the closest person to her other than God," Argo said. "He started probating her will at that funeral. I don't think I had ever seen anything so disgusting in my life."

When the will was officially probated, disgust became a mild term.

Family affair
Vynomma B. Argo died on June 8, 2007. She had married twice, the first time to Bufford Shook and a second time to William H. Argo. She had no children, and besides her husband and his daughter from a previous marriage, the only family she knew was the Argos and a group of three cousins who were sisters. Everyone called Vynomma "Aunt Vi."

She worked for former Oklahoma Congressman Victor Wickersham, who represented Central Oklahoma, from 1941 to 1965. He was defeated for re-election twice, but came back each time to regain the seat in a later election.

Vynomma's fortune would be in real estate, where she became quite successful with her investments. Her second husband, William Argo, was also in the real estate business, as was Leonard Sullivan, which is how they all met in the early 1990s, according to William Argo's brother, James Argo.

Sullivan, who is running for re-election, declined an interview request with Oklahoma Gazette. He told The Oklahoman in 2009 he helped Vynomma sell several properties, and after she became bedridden a few years before her death, Sullivan said he took care of some of her paperwork, including deposit slips.

Vynomma owned dozens of properties, including some commercial. At the time of her death, it was estimated her net worth was more than $1 million, records show.

When the will was unveiled in court, Sullivan made out quite well, in fact better than any of Vynomma's surviving relatives, including her late husband's daughter. Besides control of the million-dollar estate, Sullivan was bequeathed $100,000 "for being a true friend," according to the will. The three cousins, who were listed as nieces, each were given $100. Wilma Pleasant, Vynomma's caretaker for the last two years of her life, received $50,000, and Marilyn Johnson got $2,500. Johnson is vice president of NBC Bank in Oklahoma City and assisted Vynomma with bank records for tax filing purposes, records show.

When contacted by the Gazette, Johnson refused to answer any questions.

"I don't want to talk about it," she said.

James and John Argo have two main arguments against the will that they have filed claims against: The will is not the final wishes of Vynomma, and that her husband's estate and properties, which they claim were separate from Vynomma's, were never probated and should have been before her will was probated. They are concerned William Argo's estate was transferred over to Vynomma without William's consent before he died.

John Argo said Sullivan's attorney, Michael Clark, told him there was no money in any of William Argo's accounts.

"How does he make that statement?" John Argo asked. "Where did he get authorized to even know about my uncle's estate? They had different estates."

Clark also turned down an interview request from the Gazette.

"I will respectfully decline your request for an interview as it is our firm's policy not to comment on active cases," Clark wrote in an e-mail.

Besides Sullivan's $100,000, the Argos are also curious about the selling of Vynomma's home near Nichols Hills on Country Club Drive.

In September 2008, Sullivan submitted an inventory and appraisement of Vynomma's estate to the court. The home, which is assessed by Sullivan's county office, was valued at $95,815. In May 2009, Sullivan submitted an updated appraisement. This time, the home was valued at $35,000, more than a 60 percent drop.

As head of the estate, Sullivan then sold the home for $37,500 to The American Empire 1999 Family Trust in which a G.B. Sullivan is listed as the trustee. The Gazette was not able to reach G.B. Sullivan.

Some of Vynomma's relatives are sticking up for Sullivan. Diana Louise Temples Ingram, one of Vynomma's cousins, wrote to Oklahoma County District Judge Larry Jones in August 2007.

"I wish to tell you that he (Sullivan) is an honorable man," Ingram wrote. "I was mistaken in my suspicions about him. He is going above and beyond in helping my sister and I. So please ignore my previous letter with my concerns."

Sign here
The Argos, as well as Vynomma's cousin Janice Ayers, raise doubts about the authenticity of the will. They said they believe Sullivan wrote the will and convinced Vynomma to sign while she was in unstable physical and mental health. Pointing to inaccuracies in the will, they conclude either Vynomma didn't write it, or wrote it when she was not of "sound mind," as it states in the opening paragraph of the will.

"Many discrepancies in this document lead me to believe this will is not the final wishes of my Aunt Vi," James Argo wrote to the court in August 2007, one month after the will had been probated.

Article V of the will reads, "I further state I am to be buried between my mother and brother at Memorial Park cemetery." But as John Argo and Ayers point out, Vynomma didn't have a brother.

"Why would she agree to be buried next to a brother she doesn't have?" John Argo said.

Red flags were also raised about the will in a deposition given by caretaker Wilma Pleasant. Sullivan took Pleasant to court to try and reclaim the $50,000 Vynomma bequeathed to Pleasant in the will. Sullivan claimed because Pleasant was hired by Vynomma as a caretaker, under state law it would be illegal for Pleasant to receive anything of value over $1. But Pleasant argued that, since the money was given after Vynomma's death, Pleasant was no longer in a caretaker role and was eligible for the gift. Judge Jones ruled in Pleasant's favor. However, the judge also ordered Pleasant to return a ring she took from Vynomma valued at $200.

In Pleasant's deposition, she stated she was in the room at the time Vynomma made her will in front of Sullivan's attorney Ray Vaughn, now Oklahoma County Commissioner for District 3, at Vynomma's house. Vaughn and Sullivan served together as Republican colleagues in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Pleasant said Vaughn asked her to leave the room because she was in the will. Vaughn had no comment for this story.

"I have no problem with Wilma," John Argo said. "I know her. My aunt wanted to give her $50,000; that's fine. But who put that in there? Clark and Ray Vaughn. Then they sued Wilma saying she can't have it."

During her deposition, Sullivan's attorney Matthew Winton asked Pleasant if she had any kind of romantic relationship with Vynomma. Pleasant responded, "No."

That crossed a line for Argo.

"That's sick. What do you do if that lady says
 
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