Royal Oak High School Principal Michael Greening took more than $11,000 over two years from cash deposits intended for the school's student activities account, according to police testimony last week.
Greening was arraigned Friday on two felony embezzlement charges, each carrying a maximum five-year penalty and/or fines. He has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 16 "due to the possibility of financial irregularities in student activities funds," according to Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin. Since that time little information has been released by the school district or Royal Oak Police.
Royal Oak Police Detective Keith Spencer testified Thursday in 44th District Court in Royal Oak that more than $6,000 worth of transactions in 2010 and more than $5,000 in transactions in 2011 were identified as being deposited into Greening's personal bank accounts or converted to his personal use from cash deposits made for the Royal Oak High School student activities fund.
The student activities fund includes money from variety of events, clubs and groups such as football, drama club, robotics, prom and the Spirit Club.
Spencer testified that during his investigation he was told the only personnel who had access to the school's safes were Greening and his secretaries and that Greening had sole authority to remove or move funds around in the student activities accounts.
As an example, Spencer said that on Dec. 13, just three days before Greening was placed on leave, an athletic booster’s activity submitted a cash deposit to the main office for $1,243.73. It was noted that a deposit slip had been filled out and signed by Brian Gordon, the school's athletic director and assistant principal.
“The deposit was placed into one of two safes in the vault by the principal’s secretary, Lynne Staszak, to be counted later," Spencer testified. "When Ms. Staszak pulled the money out of the safe to count it, she noted the amount of cash in the deposit was significantly smaller than what it was when she has placed it in the safe."
After counting they money, she noted it was $1,000 short of the original submission.
Gordon noted that the deposit slip he filled out was missing and in its place was one written by someone else for $240.73.
On Dec. 14, a $1,000 transfer was signed by Greening moving money to the athletic boosters account from the student activities fund, according to testimony, and on the same day, a $900 cash deposit was made into Greening’s personal bank account.
The cash deposit into Greening’s personal account could not be traced to any other cash source known and available to Greening, Spencer said.
Spencer also testified about an April 15, 2010, transfer made and filed by Greening of $3,000 from the senior class account to the student activities fund. When teacher and senior class advisor Nanci Marek asked about shortage in the senior class account, Greening told her it was "for another purpose" and she did not investigate further, Spencer testified.
Gordon would not comment on the testimony, referring questions to the superintendent.
Other than cooperating fully with the Royal Oak Police Department and Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, personnel of the district have remained silent on this matter.
"We have not released information or spoken about the case because of our commitment to the integrity of the investigatory process," said Lewis-Lakin.
Greening’s attorney, Paul Stablein, characterized Spencer’s testimony as a "summation of what the detective thinks he can prove." At a swear-to hearing, testimony does not have to be substantiated, he said.
“I still do not have any evidence,” Stablein said. He expects to receive it on Friday when the matter is back in the 44th District Court for the pre-exam conference.
“Until then, I can’t make any comment one way or another,” he said.
With the school district administration and police department mum during the investigation, the community has been hungry for any details, any reason for the allegations.
Many students and members of the community have stood behind Greening since Lewis-Lakin sent a letter to the school's roughly 1,500 students and their families about placing Greening on leave and why. A Facebook page called Save Greening was quickly created and has grown to 764 "friends."