Hearing canceled for ex-DPS principal in bribery scheme

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — A court appearance was canceled Tuesday for a former Detroit Public School principal who fired his attorney the same day he was expected to plead guilty for his alleged role in a $2.7 million bribery and kickback scheme.

Ronald Alexander, a principal at Spain Elementary for 20 years until he retired April 1, and his new attorney William R. Ford were to appear for a status conference during the afternoon in U.S. District Court in Detroit as part of bribery case involving 12 other former and current DPS principals and school supplies vendor Norman Shy. The reason for the cancellation wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday afternoon. A new date will be scheduled, according to a court clerk.

Earlier Tuesday, Ford said a plea would not be entered that day in court and did not answer a question as to whether Alexander will consider a plea at a later date.

On May 18, Alexander fired his attorney during a hearing originally scheduled for a plea deal

Alexander, who is accused of taking $23,000 in kickbacks from Shy over five years, is charged with conspiracy to commit program bribery, which carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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.

Shy is accused of submitting fraudulent invoices to DPS for goods he did not deliver. Instead, he had DPS officials sign off on the invoices in exchange for bribes and gave kickbacks totaling $908,518. The scheme deprived DPS students of more than $2.7 million in resources, officials have said.

Shy and 10 other DPS officials have entered into plea agreements with the government in the public corruptions case, which was uncovered by the FBI. All face jail time and must pay restitution to DPS.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit says it may go after the state pensions of the DPS officials after they have been sentenced for their crimes. The federal government does not have legal standing to request the forfeiture of their pensions.

However, Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, said once the defendants have been sentenced and restitution ordered by the district judge, the government can and will take steps to enforce the restitution order, which may include garnishment of their pensions.


Candice Williams contributed.