Tlaib holds out for better deal on social spending, infrastructure bills

2 DPS board members say panel won’t OK Pugh settlement

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Two members of the Detroit school board said Friday that the panel will not authorize the $350,000 settlement that Detroit Public Schools reached with a former student who sued the district and former Detroit City Council president Charles Pugh.

While the school board has been largely sidelined since the state took control of the district in 2009, board member Elena Herrada said Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, allows members to reject the settlement.

“The school board has the right under the bogus PA 436, to authorize any payments for anything over $50,000 and we will not approve the $350,000 when it comes before the board,” Herrada, who represents District 2, said at a news conference outside state offices at Cadillac Place.

The former student was 17 when he met Pugh in 2012 through a mentoring program at Frederick Douglass Academy. The teen alleges Pugh sexually harassed him, pressured him to make a sex video and gave him money for it.

Tawanna Simpson, the board member at the news conference, represents District 1, which includes the Frederick Douglass Academy. She said she and her colleagues agree about not paying the money.

“The District complies with the requirements of PA 436 in all actions taken by the Emergency Manager,” DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement. “Where Board review of a proposed action is required, the Emergency Manager and staff have always presented those matters for its consideration.”

Simpson said board members warned then-Emergency Manager Roy Roberts about Pugh but were ignored.

“We unanimously opposed Charles Pugh having a mentoring program in the school without going through the procedures of being fingerprinted and interviewed,” Simpson said. “That has not happened and they’ve been in the schools for at least two years.”

Herrada said it’s more than refusing to approve the money.

“The money is important, but children are being harmed and traumatized, and we don’t know how many more will come forward,” she said. “We repeatedly warned them and repeatedly called for an audit.”

Pugh, who repeatedly said he considered the student an adult, has denied touching the teen but has admitted to spending money on him and sending him sexually explicit texts about making a video of the teen masturbating. Testimony in the civil suit was continuing Friday.

Pugh has not been criminally charged.

slewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296