Documents outline probe into school district

DETROIT (AP) — The federal government has been conducting a corruption investigation into Michigan’s turnaround district for low-performing public schools, focusing on current and former top officials as well vendor payments, according to newly released documents.

Subpoenas and other records released Tuesday by the district called the Education Achievement Authority show the investigation began more than 16 months ago, the Detroit Free Press reported, and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office initially sought email and banking records.

No one named in the documents has been charged and federal authorities haven’t disclosed specifics of the investigation, which surfaced last week.

The Detroit News, citing documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reports that agents were interested in contracts with vendors who supplied education materials, student-to-student conflict resolution coaching and sporting goods.

Gov. Rick Snyder created the Education Achievement Authority in 2011 to overhaul troubled Michigan schools, starting in Detroit. EAA spokesman Robert Guttersohn said staff in the district, which now operates 15 schools in Detroit, found and reported issues to authorities.

“The EAA has and will continue to work closely with the FBI. When the EAA was informed of the investigation, Chancellor Veronica Conforme immediately implemented greater controls and more stringent surveillance over use of district finances,” Guttersohn said.

“Any misuse of funds is intolerable,” he said.

Snyder addressed the federal investigation on Monday while rolling out a new proposal for overhauling the Detroit Public Schools district.

“I think it’s fair to say it complicates it,” Snyder said of the corruption probe.

The governor’s office noted that an internal review led to the investigation, with the state working to help ensure that the review was conducted properly. As soon as irregularities and concerns were identified, Snyder’s office said, state and federal law enforcement authorities were contacted.

According to the records, federal officials sought personal email information about John Covington, who stepped down in 2014 after three years as EAA chancellor. He told the Free Press that he hasn’t been contacted by the FBI or others about an investigation.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. That’s not a feeling, that’s a fact,” Covington told The News. “I have not been subpoenaed, I have not been questioned by anybody about this.”