An assistant superintendent and 12 current or former principals for the financially struggling Detroit Public Schools have been charged with taking bribes as part of a long-running fraud scheme involving school supplies.
The 13 school officials are accused in federal court of receiving a total of $908,518 in bribes; Norman Shy, owner of Allstate Sales, a school supplies vendor, is accused of paying the bribes. Prosecutors say the company received about $2.7 million from fraudulent invoices submitted to the Detroit district. The scheme allegedly began in 2002 and continued until 2015.
Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, says the school administrators allegedly conspired with Shy to certify and submit phony invoices to the district for supplies that were never delivered.
“It is a heavy blow to public confidence when so many school principals are charged with bribery,” McQuade said. “Public officials should take note that while it may seem easy to take bribes when they are offered, officials who betray their public trust will eventually get caught and will face the consequences.”
Steven Rhodes, the state-appointed transition manager for the Detroit school system, says he is outraged at the corruption uncovered by the federal investigation.
"The actions of these individuals are reprehensible and represent a breach of the public trust that has deprived our students of more than $2.7 million in resources," Rhodes says."This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and will never be tolerated. Illegal behavior of any kind will result in immediate suspension and possible termination.
Rhodes also says the district is immediately putting into place a series of checks and balances to prevent similar schemes from happening. Interim principals have been named to lead affected schools when classes resume after Spring Break next week.
The 13 current or former district administrators and Shy have been charge with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. In addition, Shy and and Clara Flowers, the district's assistant superintendent of specialized student services and former principal of Henderson Academy, have been charged with tax evasion.
The administrators and the kickback amounts they allegedly received:
- Flowers, $324,785
- Beverly Campbell, former principal of Rosa Parks School and Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School, $50,000
- Clara Smith, principal of Thirkell Elementary-Middle School, $194,000
- Germla Johnson, (), former principal of Charles R. Drew Academy and current principal of Earhart Elementary-Middle School, $22,884
- James Hearn, principal of Marcus Garvey Academy; $11,500
- Josette Buendia, principal of Bennett Elementary School, $45,775
- Nina Graves-Hicks, former principal of Davis Aerospace Technical High School, $27,385
- Ronald Alexander, principal of Charles L. Spain Elementary-Middle School; ($23,000)
- Ronnie Sims, 55, former principal of Fleming Elementary and Brenda Scott Middle School, $58,519
- Stanley Johnson, principal of Hutchinson Elementary, $84,170
- Tanya Bowman, former principal of Osborn Collegiate Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology $12,500
- Tia’von Moore-Patton, principal of Jerry L. White Center High School, $4,000
- Willye Pearsall, former principal of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, $50,000
Video from Fox 2 Detroit: