Office of Inspector General completes first year with 136 closed cases

Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542
Kisha Verdusco at 313-873-4546

The Detroit Public Schools Office of Inspector General has worked to strengthen the accountability and ethical standards at all levels of the district in the 12 months it has operated.

Among the most significant accomplishments, Inspector General John E. Bell Jr. and his team of auditors and investigators developed Employee Code of Ethics and Whistleblower policies for the district and referred numerous cases for criminal prosecution.

The district’s Office of Public Safety in 2009 was placed under the oversight of the Inspector General, who replaced the top levels of leadership, including hiring a new Chief of Police, two Deputy Chiefs and a Director of Support Operations.

The changes are all geared toward rooting out waste and abuse and serving Detroit’s children by ensuring that funds meant to benefit them are properly spent.

“As the Office of Inspector General enters its second year, investigators and forensic auditors will continue to aggressively pursue ongoing investigations and new allegations of fraud, waste and abuse,” said Bell.

In the last 12 months, the Office of Inspector General opened 248 cases based on 280 complaints ranging from theft to mismanagement, to waste or abuse. Thus far, 136 cases have been closed, 25 cases have been placed in inactive status and 87 are pending.

Among the accomplishments achieved during the OIG investigations are:
– 70 allegations were proven unfounded.
– 97 recommendations were made in 32 cases.
– 27 cases were referred for disciplinary hearing.
– To date, 19 search warrants were executed, two cases were referred to law enforcement; 16 cases were referred to the local prosecutor and seven cases, thus far, have ended in convictions.
– Five cases were referred to the FBI and are still jointly under investigation.
– Contracts were reviewed in 15 cases, corrective actions were taken in one case, four vendors were debarred, and a federal, state, or local department was involved in seven cases.
– Employee suspensions occurred in 17 cases, employee termination in 11 cases, employee reprimand in four cases, administrative action in four cases, and a warning was issued in two cases.
– Four cases involved employees who resigned prior to the disciplinary hearing.
– Seven cases warranted restitution, sixteen cases involved the recovery of DPS assets, and five cases identified monetary loss to the district.
– Four cases were involved in public hearings, four cases had issues that were referred to the Office of the Auditor General for additional audits, and one case was referred to the Office of the General Counsel.

The breakdown of cases is as follows:

Type Count Pending Inactive Closed
Theft 70 40 7 23
Payroll Fraud 38 9 1 28
Unauthorized Employment 27 4 5 18
Waste 23 4 1 18
Ethics Violation 19 2 4 13
Vendor Fraud 19 14 2 3
Mismanagement 15 4 0 11
Abuse 13 3 4 6
Criminal Activity 12 5 0 7
Contractor Fraud 7 2 0 5
Misuse of Vehicle 3 0 1 2
Insurance Fraud 2 0 0 2
Grand Total 248 87 25 136

Pending cases are active investigations, inactive cases are complete in regards to the OIG’s work, but awaiting finalization from another area, i.e., Human Resources, Wayne County Prosecutor, etc. A closed case requires no more time or resources from any source.

Some case examples:
– The OIG verified tips that Michigan Department of Education grant funds earmarked for Advanced Placement testing at Cass Technical High School had been mismanaged. Students who qualified for free and reduced lunch were improperly charged $54 to take AP exams between 2006 and 2009. The OIG has since reimbursed $8,200 of the $12,754 that was improperly collected and is actively tracking down the other families to reimburse them.
– Mumford High School employee Toni Ausberry, 29, was recorded stealing $300 a day from the school’s cafeteria cash drawer on eight occasions. The Wayne County Prosecutor is investigating the case and Ausberry has been referred for disciplinary action.
Each week, more than $27,000 in cash is generated from cafeteria food sales throughout the district. According to district estimates, more than 5 percent of those funds are stolen.
– A District cabinet-level executive was released following an OIG investigation involving unethical behavior and conflict of interest. Investigation determined District vendors paid for travel and hotel costs related to four of the executive’s trips, and the executive received partial funding for two other trips. This executive was also provided lunch or dinner on numerous occasions. The vendors involved were attempting to obtain contracts with DPS.

– A grand jury indicted Robert Williams, 49, a DPS truck driver following allegations he stole about $70,000 worth of desktop computers, printers and other property from a district warehouse. The truck driver was terminated and is currently on bond awaiting a trial date. Another former employee was determined to be involved with the theft and was terminated by DPS.

– An OIG investigation was predicated on information that Geraldine Ellington, 53, a secretary at Detroit Transition Center East, who was assigned to a 7

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