After the prosecution described former Royal Oak High School principal Michael Greening as being in "dire financial trouble" Monday morning, Greening's case was sent straight to trial in the Oakland County Circuit Court.
Greening is alleged to having taken between $2,000 and $40,000 from Royal Oak's student activities fund and was . Earlier this year, .
After hearing testimony during a preliminary hearing in , Judge Daniel Sawicki ruled there was probable cause to hold Greening's case over to the Oakland County Circuit Court for trial.
Human resources director testifies that Greening admitted to making an 'error in judgement'
Testimony began Monday morning with Cheryl Goodgine, the school district’s human resources director. Goodgine testified she had a 15- to 20-minute meeting with Greening on Dec. 20 to ask him about a deposit former Athletic Director Brian Gordon made to the main office in mid-December.
that on or around Dec. 13, he delivered a deposit to the high school's main office for $1,243.73 — the majority of which was cash, to Greening's secretary Lynne Staszak.
Gordon told the court he received a receipt that only showed a deposit of $240.73. After noticing the deposit was short $1,000, Gordon said he had a conversation with Pam Moore, the school's athletic coordinator before later approaching Greening.
Goodgine testified Monday that in her Dec. 20 meeting with Greening, he acknowledged there was a deposit to the main office from a basketball game.
“He said he went to the safe, saw the deposit, took it back to his office, counted it and I believe he said he ‘made an error in judgment,’” Goodgine said, adding Greening deposited some of the money back into the safe but not all of it.
Goodgine said Greening admitted to taking $1,000 cash and told her there was “still some of it in his car.” She said she watched Greening go to his car and retrieve $860.
According to Goodgine's testimony, when she asked him about the remaining $140, Greening told her he used it to pay a teacher, Greg Castle, for some tutoring work and had plans to pay three other teachers for extra work. Goodgine testified that Greening couldn't remember who the other teachers were.
On Monday, Goodgine testified that she asked Greening if anything like this had ever happened in the past.
“He said, ‘Yes, I did it one other time,’” Goodgine said. According to Goodgine, Greening had made a payment of $120 to Vicky Martindale for some work she did in the office.
Greening understood he was doing damage, witness testifies
Also on Monday, Goodgine told the court about a conversation she had with Greening over the high school's Robotics Club. According to Goodgine, parents were concerned the club's account balance wasn't accurate.
Goodgine said she showed Greening a document that indicated the numbers had been changed, with a difference of $650.
According to Goodgine, Greening told her, "I must have done it again."
After reviewing three years' of spreadsheets pulled from the district’s financial database and showing Greening multiple discrepancies during their meeting, Goodgine said that Greening told her he often made transfers to cover negative account balances.
“He concluded this line of questioning by saying he felt this was a nefarious idea, but there was a lot of confusion with so many transfers,” Goodgine said.
Goodgine told Oakland County prosecutor Robert Novy “nefarious” was Greening’s choice of words, not hers. Goodgine said Greening told her he understood that he has done damage to the district, his family, friends and colleagues.
Police testifies Greening had seven credit accounts and more than $40,000 in consumer debt
According to Novy, Greening was taking money because he was in "dire financial trouble.”
, the only other witness called Monday morning, spent time , noting it appeared Greening had money troubles.
“In going through Mr. Greening’s bank statement, I noticed there was a very large amount of non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees that were paid,” Spencer said. NSF fees are paid when there isn't enough money in a bank account to cover a check.
“In 2010, between $3,000 and $4,000 of non-sufficient fund fees were paid from (his credit union) account at $21 per transaction," Spencer said. "During the year 2011, I saw the same type of pattern but it was closer to $4,000, although the NSF fees had gone from $21 to $25.”
Spencer said according to Greening's account records, there were 152 days in 2010 when his bank account had a negative balance. In 2011, his bank account dipped below zero 128 days.
According to Spencer, Greening and his wife had a total of seven credit accounts — exclusive of mortgages — for a total consumer debt, as of Dec. 31, 2011, of $47,765.77.
After the hearing, Greening’ s attorney Paul Stablein told reporters that the situation the former principal finds himself in has been “very difficult on his family,” but the former principal appreciates the support he has received from the community — especially students.
In April, . On Monday, only one former student was in the courtroom.
Also in court on Monday was Greening’s wife, Beth, who choked back tears in the back of the courtroom as Sawicki gave his ruling. She was comforted by a female companion.