AG clips pensions of 8 guilty Detroit school officials

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Eight Detroit school principals convicted last year of taking bribes won't be able to collect state contributions to their school pensions, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Monday.

Schuette said Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo issued a ruling Friday that enabled the AG's office to secure the forfeiture of the state-paid portions of the school officials' pensions.

Schuette

“The future of our state depends on the education of the next generation," Schuette said in a statement. "School leaders have an inherent duty to provide and protect our students, not steal from them.”

The attorney general said in October he would go after the pensions of former Detroit Public School officials convicted of bribery in a $2.7 million kickback scheme and initiated civil forfeiture actions.

Michigan law allows the state to seize public employee retirement benefits it pays if a retiree is convicted of a felony related to their service as a public employee. The confiscated funds cannot be used to pay restitution.

Because of Colombo's ruling, eight former principals will not be able to receive pension contributions paid by the state and those who owe repayment will have their pension payments reduced until they've covered the debt, Schuette said.

He said the eight school officials who will not receive state contributions in their pensions are:

-- Clara Flowers, former assistant superintendent of DPS' Office of Specialized Student Services and former principal of Henderson Academy, who was sentenced to three years in federal prison. Her pension will be reduced $1,416 per month or $16,995 per year. She has to repay the state $27,037 because of the forfeiture.

-- Beverly Campbell, former principal at Greenfield Union Elementary/Middle School, who was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Her pension will be reduced $3,439 a month or $41,276 a year. She has to repay the state $89,294 because of the forfeiture.

-- Stanley Johnson, former principal of Hutchinson Elementary, who also was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. His pension will be reduced by $1,472 per month or $17,666 per year.

-- Ronald Alexander, former principal of Spain Elementary School, who was sentenced to a year in federal prison. His pension will be reduced by $1,067 a month or $12,806 a year. He has to repay $38,139 because of the forfeiture.

-- Tia Von Moore-Patton, former principal of Jerry White Center High School, who was sentenced to six months in prison. Her pension will be reduced by $1,459 per month or $17,510 per year.

-- Ronnie Sims, former principal of Fleming Elementary School and Brenda Scott Middle School, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison. His pension will be reduced by $1,066 a month or $12,802 a year.

-- Clara Smith, former principal of Thirkell Elementary School, who was sentenced to two years in prison. Her pension will be reduced by $1,822 per month or $21,869 per year. She must also repay the state $33,925 because of the forfeiture.

-- Willye Pearsall, former principal at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her pension will be reduced by $1,326 a month or $15,909 a year. She must repay the state $70,352 because of the forfeiture.

Another Detroit school official, James Hearn, former principal at Marcus Garvey Academy who was sentenced to 10 months in prison, had his pension reduced $1,561 per month or $18,731 per year, because of a previously entered stipulated forfeiture order.

Those nine and four others were convicted of felony federal program bribery and lost their licenses to teach.

Federal officials say the 13 former educators were involved in a scheme hatched by school vendor Norman Shy that billed DPS for $5 million in school supplies but delivered less and kept the leftover money. In the scam, which ran from 2002 through January 2015, Shy paid bribes and gave kickbacks to 13 former DPS principals and one assistant superintendent in the form of cash and gift cards totaling $908,518.

ramirez@detroitnews.com