DETROIT – The United States Attorney's Office announced Thursday federal program theft charges against Highland Park School Board member Robert Davis.
Davis, a union activist on top of his School Board membership, has been accused by a Detroit grand jury of stealing more than $125,000 from the Highland Park School District between 2004 and 2010. The Attorney's Office said Davis executed two schemes in which he used cover companies to facilitate the submission of false invoices to the school district for payment.
One scheme involved the submission of false invoices for purchases, valued more than $380,000, made for advertising on behalf of Highland Park schools, the Attorney's Office said.
The other scheme involved the submission of false invoices worth more than $49,000 for services and expenditures relating to a Saturday educational program for Highland Park School District students, the Attorney's Office said.
He is accused of concealing his involvement with the companies whose names appeared on the invoices and concealing the fact that he took a substantial portion of the payments for his own use.
"We are committed to uncovering all forms of public corruption, but stealing from the public is especially egregious when the victims are school children," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.
The case has been investigated by the FBI's Public Corruption Task Force and the IRS.
Davis claims innocence, says he'll fight charges:
Davis said the charges are false and he is innocent.
"I can state unequivocally that I am not guilty of any of these charges that have been alleged," he said. "I am going to fight very vigorously."
Highland Park School District Emergency Manager Jack Martin said there should be no surprise about the charges against Davis after reviewing the actions and checks cut by the past administration.
"It's very disappointing and it's particularly disappointing, you know, he is a very bright young man," Martin said. "And falling into, trying to allegedly orchestrate ways to enrich himself, and take money away from kids which I think is really the worst of what he's done."
Davis said the 16-count federal indictment is totally false.
"The allegations outlined in the document in which you have are totally not me," Davis said.
Davis leads charge against Detroit review team:
Davis has been leading a charge against a state-appointed Detroit review team. He requested a temporary restraining order on Monday which was granted by a judge. It barred the team from meeting.
The state appealed the order on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Michigan appeals court threw out a lawsuit and declared there is nothing in law that limits the service of a review team examining Detroit's finances.
The one-page order overturned the Ingham County judge's decision to halt the work of the Detroit review team and said its term had expired. The team immediately set another meeting for Wednesday.
The appeals court says there is nothing in state law to stop the review team from negotiating an agreement with Detroit officials on how to handle the city's precarious finances.