The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have sent subpoenas to get personnel files and bank records or email accounts of over a dozen current and former officials at Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s K-12 reform district to investigate corruption allegations, according to a report Tuesday. The subpoenas come amid an investigation to probe whether officials from the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) and Detroit Public Schools (DPS) -- both created by Snyder -- received bribes from contractors.
The former officials at the governor’s office include ex-chancellor John Covington, chief of staff Tyrone Winfrey and former Mumford High School principal Kenyetta “K.C.” Wilbourn, the Detroit News reported, citing the federal grand jury subpoenas. The news of the federal probe first emerged last week when it was reported that Wilbourn was a target of the FBI, which was also investigating several officials from the EAA and DPS.
“We commend the EAA staff who found and reported these issues to the authorities,” Robert Guttersohn, a spokesman for the reform school district, said, according to the Detroit News, adding: “The EAA has and will continue to work closely with the FBI. Any misuse of funds is intolerable.”
Wilbourn, who was making $140,000 a year, had resigned last November after FBI agents searched her house. The 40-year-old also added a request in the resignation letter she sent to Chancellor Veronica Conforme, who had replaced Covington. “Please be so kind as to assist me with pay out of the 46 days I have accrued,” Wilbourn reportedly wrote in the mail.
Conforme then sent a memo to then-EAA General Counsel Michelle Crockett describing several conversations she had with Wilbourn, who had also told her that she had done things that “may appear to be illegal,” the Detroit News reported, citing Conforme.
“She would ghost write for vendors and help them respond to RFPs [request for proposal] and she said she reported these things to DPS conflicts of interest,” Conforme reportedly wrote in the memo, adding: “She said she would also take a cut or have vendors over bill and three people for the price of one — she mentioned Esperanza [a firm providing 'student advocates' to resolve conflicts with EAA schools] on this issue.”
A lawyer for EAA reportedly provided the FBI a list of payments made to Esperanza Detroit between 2012 and 2014 school years, totaling $561,452 and $837,354 for the two academic years of 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively. The EAA attorney was also in close contact with the FBI in the days leading up to the raid on Wilbourn’s home, the Detroit News reported.
Crockett also reportedly said in an email to FBI Special Agent Brenda Jeanetta: “It appears that she is contracting with these individuals on her own and is having them sign an old Master Service Agreement from last school year.”
Snyder had created the district in 2011 to boost the academic performance of the 15 Detroit Public Schools. It is unclear how much money is involved in the contracts under the FBI investigation, but officials have reportedly seized money from a company led by a contractor for both Detroit schools and the EAA.
Wilbourn is a former Detroit teacher and an administrator, who was named principal of Mumford High School, a part of the governor’s school reform district, in April 2013.