10th DPS principal pleads guilty in bribery scheme

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A 10th principal from Detroit Public Schools has pleaded guilty to a felony charge for her role in a $2.7 million bribery scheme at the state’s largest, cash-strapped district.

Beverly Campbell, a principal at Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle school from 2005 to 2015, entered her guilty plea Friday morning before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman on a count of bribery conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors allege Campbell conspired with school supplies vendor Norman Shy to submit fraudulent invoices to the district for supplies Shy did not deliver.

In return, Campbell received $50,000 in kickbacks and bribes from Shy, prosecutors said, meeting with him four to five times a year to get the cash.

Campell, 66, faces between 30 and 37 months in prison when sentenced on Sept. 19 by Borman. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Asked by Borman to explain her role in the scheme, Campbell said starting in 2005, she submitted and approved paperwork for Shy who billed DPS for school supplies such as chairs, raised-line paper and teaching materials.

“Some of the materials he delivered. Some he would not,” Campbell said. “Shy would give me 40 percent of what was left over.”

Prosecutors are also seeking full restitution from Shy and all 13 former and current Detroit Public School principals charged in the scheme uncovered by an FBI investigation.

Shy has been ordered to pay more than $2.7 million. The DPS officials must payback the bribes and kickbacks, ranging from $4,000 to nearly $325,000.

The scheme deprived DPS students of more than $2.7 million in resources, officials said.

Shy is accused of paying $908,518 in exchange for $5 million in business with his company, Allstate Sales. He has pleaded guilty in the case.

Three other DPS principals remain charged in the case but have either not worked out plea deals or appeared for arraignment.

Willye Pearsall, a former principal at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, does not have a plea hearing scheduled yet. Prosecutors had no comment on the status of her case.

Pearsall is accused of taking $50,000 in bribes while principal from 2005-2011.

Bennett Elementary principal Josette Buendia has not been arraigned. Prosecutors expect Buendia to turn herself in for arraignment in the near future.

Buendia is accused of conspiring with Shy from November 2011 through January 2015 to accept kickbacks and gift cards totaling $45,775.

Ronald Alexander, former principal at Spain Elementary, fired his attorney Wednesday during a hearing originally scheduled for a plea deal for his alleged role in a $2.7 million bribery and kickback scheme. Alexander has a status conference on May 31.

Alexander, who retired April 1, is accused of taking $23,000 in bribes from Shy from 2009-14.

Alexander made headlines in February for accepting a $500,000 donation from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for technology updates, campus renovations and additional staff funding.

Officials with Lowe’s, the sponsor of the gift, have said the school will still receive the funds despite its principal’s criminal case.