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Feds: 12 Detroit Principals Stole $1M In Kickback Scheme

In its latest crackdown on school corruption in Detroit, the federal government today dropped a legal bomb on 12 current and former principals, one administrator and a vendor — all of them charged with running a nearly $1-million bribery and kickback scheme involving school supplies that were rarely ever delivered.

At the heart of the alleged scheme is businessman Norman Shy, 74, of Franklin, who is accused of paying $908,500 in kickbacks and bribes to at least 12 Detroit Public Schools principals who used him as a school supply vendor in exchange for money — some for as little as $4,000, another for $324,000. He secretly did this for 13 years, scamming school after school to the tune of $2.7 million with the help of principals who benefited along the way, prosecutors allege.

Your Black World News, Roosevelt Mitchell III discusses the administrators in DPS being charged with bribery.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade announced the sweeping charges at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, calling the case “a punch in the gut.”

McQuade stressed that the charges have nothing to do with DPS’s existing financial troubles, or the political debate surrounding whether the state should help the city’s struggling school system.

“Public corruption never comes at a good time,” McQuade said. “This case is not about DPS. It is not about emergency managers. It is about these 14 individuals who breached their trust.”

McQuade noted that the charges stem from a two-year-old audit of the Education Achievement Authority, a state-formed agency that was supposed to oversee and help Detroit’s most troubled schools. That audit raised red flags, including one that led to the eventual indictment of former principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp, who pleaded guilty to bribery two months ago and agreed to cooperate with the government in its prosecution against others.

McQuade would not say whether Snapp’s cooperation led to any of today’s charges, only that the EAA investigation revealed more evidence of wrongdoing by Detroit school officials.

Among those charged today is Clara Flowers, 61, of Detroit, an assistant superintendent of DPS’s Office of Specialized Student Services. She is charged with pocketing $324,785 in kickbacks from Shy for using him as a school supply vendor.

The kickbacks came in the form of cash, gift cards and payments to contractors who put a new roof on Flowers’ house, painted it and did gutter work. Flowers first used Shy sometime before 2009, when as principal of Henderson Academy she chose his company as that school’s school supply vendor. She would continue to use Shy as a vendor when she became an assistant superintendent.

According to court documents, Shy maintained a ledger to keep track of how much money he owed Flowers in kickbacks. The two regularly met to discuss how much Flowers was owed for her favors, and Shy was careful not to get caught, disguising his payments to Flowers in a variety of methods such as checks payable to contractors who worked on Flowers’ home, including one company that did painting and gutter work. Shy also used DPS money to help pay for a new roof on Flowers’ house.

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Black Westchester - News With The Black Point Of View is an online news magazine for people of color for Westchester and the Tri- State area of New York at every economic level. Our mission is to promote the concept of “community” through media.
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