News & Politics

Just When You're Ready to Give Up on Detroit...

The principal reason the once-glorious city of Detroit has become a basket case and a byword for municipal corruption is that its Democrat-run city government pretends to care about “minorities” — who are the vast majority of the population — while ripping them off shamelessly, and then promising to fix things next time. It’s a mug’s game, but one that benighted electorates in all donkey fiefdoms seem to fall for time and again. In the meantime, they’re stealing them blind. Case in point:

In 2002, Norman Shy was settling into his new, custom-built mansion in Farmington Hills, Mich. — complete with an indoor lap pool, massive marble foyer, paneled library, movie theater and nine bathrooms. Life was good for the school supply vendor.

But behind the glamour was a scammer, prosecutors allege in a federal criminal case, and he would go undetected for years. Here, in this 11,000-square-foot estate, public records show, is where the central figure in a Detroit school corruption case lived for years while allegedly cheating the Detroit Public Schools out of millions of dollars with the help of 12 principals and one administrator. Shy’s home was featured in a Michigan House Envy article in the Detroit Free Press in 2013. He sold the home in November 2014.

According to court documents, principals used Shy as their school supply vendor for items such as chairs, workbooks and paper, but the supplies rarely made it to the classrooms. In return for their help, the principals allegedly received $1 million in kickbacks that came in all forms: payments made to sham companies that the principals had created, cash, gift cards and house repairs, including a new roof and gutter work for one administrator.

Detroit Public Schools unknowingly paid for it all, prosecutors allege, claiming Shy was the biggest benefactor of all. Over 13 years, he billed the district $5 million, of which $2.7 million was ill-gotten, they say.

Since the days of Tammany’s George Washington Plunkitt and before, politics has always been a racket; the question is when the indulgence of “honest graft” (in Plunktt’s memorable phrase) crosses the line into outright looting. Detroit is long past that point.

But the FBI caught on.

On March 29, weeks after another Detroit principal and vendor pleaded guilty in a kickback scheme, Shy was charged with bribery and tax evasion in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors said a school corruption investigation into the state’s embattledEducation Achievement Authority reform school district led them to Shy, who allegedly ran a kickback scheme from 2002 through 2015.

He has since cut a deal in the criminal case and is waiting for a guilty-plea hearing to be rescheduled. A May 12 hearing was postponed.

Read the whole thing to see just how brazen the whole scheme was. But will anybody care? Of course not.