Not that there’s any such thing as a good time for a kickback scheme.
But considering the fact that a decimated DPS is currently in the process of trying to avoid drowning while waiting on a $715 million lifeline to come from a skeptical Lansing that seemingly wants to retain as much control over DPS as possible to justify any amount of bailout?
So yeah. This is probably the worst possible time.
The story broke late morning on Tuesday, then developed further after U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade announced the list of 12 Detroit principals and administrators who have been charged with accepting $908,500 in kickbacks from 74-year-old Franklin businessman Norman Shy who allegedly operated this scheme for 13 years. From the Detroit Free Press:
“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 DPS 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.
“According to court records, here’s how the scheme worked.
“Principals steered millions of dollars worth of business to Shy, who in turn would give them money for helping make the deals possible.
“The principals would certify and submit phony invoices to DPS for the school supplies. Shy got paid, but the goods were rarely delivered, only sometimes “for the purpose of making the transaction appear legitimate.”
Predictably, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter jumped on this scandal as an opportunity to essentially justify the House’s version of DPS bailout legislation that wouldn’t even return an elected school board to DPS for eight years (the Senate version pushes for fall elections), and would require a punitive and stifling amount of oversight, despite the fact that the full amount of the DPS debt accrued since DPS was taken over by the State in 1999. Plus, considering the fact that this scandal occurred mostly while DPS was still under emergency management, and that it is a scandal of a financial nature, shouldn’t the emergency manager(s) who were in place at the time bear at least some culpability here since keeping a close eye on the books to prevent mismanagement was pretty much the central part of the job requirement?
The point being that certainly there is no excuse for the alleged kickback scheme or for anyone who participated in it. It’s wrong, and that much is obvious. But any attempt to further hold DPS hostage to still more oppressive levels of oversight based on what will likely be proven to be the criminal actions of 12 employees, especially in light of the much bigger crime that has been perpetrated against DPS for close to two decades now under State oversight, is no less wrong.
It’s no secret that DPS needs to be cleaned up and straightened out. But to entrust this task to the State, after how badly state-imposed emergency management has performed for both the students and the parents of Detroit’s schools (not to mention the fallout from the takeover that took place in 1999), would be like calling in a witch doctor to perform major surgery on your child. For a second time. Even after what happened that first time…
Not the best idea.