Prof’s Theory: Six-Figure DPS Staff 'Thought They Deserved' Kickbacks

A Wayne State University law school professor is getting nationwide attention for speculating on the rationales used by 13 Detroit Public School officials accused of taking bribes and kickbacks for 13 years. He offers that they felt they deserved it for working hard in thankless, underpaid jobs.

The 12 DPS principals and one assistant superintendent involved were paid an average of roughly $115,000, according to a state database.

Wayne State's Peter Henning’s comments appeared in a nationwide Associated Press story about the scandal. It read, “Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning described it as a scenario that is all too familiar in a city where public employees think they are owed more than they get for difficult, thankless jobs.”

Then it quoted Henning: “I doubt any of them really thought they were doing anything wrong — they (believed they) were just getting something they deserved. They worked hard, were underpaid and had to deal with all the stuff that goes on in DPS.”

The story reported that the average salary of the charged officials, not including benefits, “is about $98,600.”

ForTheRecord says: The state database of public school employees enrolled in the state pension plan contains the salaries of 11 of the 13 DPS employees charged in the scandal. Two of the principals – Ronnie Sims and Willye Pearsall — are not listed, probably because they were not members of the state-run pension system for school employees.

The state database includes total salaries and bonuses, if any, but not benefits. The average salary of the charged officials was $114,928 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, which is the most recent year available. The highest salary was $126,103 and the lowest was $104,374.

Here are the individual salaries of 11 of the 13 DPS officials who have been charged:

  • Tanya Bowman: $126,103
  • Clara Flowers: $121,375
  • Nina Graves-Hicks: $119,546
  • Clara Smith: $116,532
  • James Hearn: $114,943
  • Tia’Von Moore-Patton: $113,832
  • Stanley Johnson: $113,231
  • Beverly Campbell: $113,033
  • Ronald Alexander: $112,926
  • Gerlma Johnson: $108,313
  • Josette Buendia: $104,374

Per capita income in the city of Detroit was $14,984 from 2010 to 2014.