DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Investigators were the first to report that the new Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public Schools has a brand new $40,000 SUV – purchased by the taxpayers.
On the heels of a 10% pay cut for all DPS employees – the purchase of a pricey SUV is prompting a lot of questions and now the head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers is calling on Roy Roberts to practice what he preaches.
“If you’re going to tell everyone else that we have to be fiscally responsible, let it begin with you,” says DFT Union President Keith Johnson.
That’s the message Johnson has for Detroit Public Schools new Emergency Manager Roy Roberts. The Action News Investigators first broke the news that the district – which is drowning in debt – purchased a $40,000 Chevy Tahoe to chauffeur Roberts around Detroit.
When the Governor tapped this retired GM vice president to turn around a district with a $327 Million deficit – Roberts promised DPS would be giving up unnecessary frills.
“What are the things we need the most? Which ones are nice, and which can we do without,” Roberts said on May 16, 2011.
“If we’re going to look at prioritizing the resources that we have, then let’s not talk it, let’s walk it. And this is not an example of doing that,” Johnson told Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.
Roberts makes $250,000 a year as DPS Emergency Manager, and state records show he has three personal cars registered in his name.
A district spokeswoman tells Action News that the decision to purchase the new Tahoe was made by DPS police because of “safety concerns.” Roberts’ predecessor, Robert Bobb, racked up 110,000 miles on a Dodge Durango, which district officials say needs extensive maintenance.
“My last car had 230,000 miles on it. You do what you have to do when you’re in a financial situation, and a financial struggle,” says Ida Byrd-Hill, a parent to two recent DPS grads.
We checked with other big school districts around the country – to see how their top administrators got around.
In the larger Houston, Memphis, and Columbus districts – superintendents use their own vehicles, opting instead to receive a monthly stipend. Those stipends average about $600 a month.
In Los Angeles and Chicago, their superintendents use less costly Ford Crown Vics, which are several years old. Charlotte’s superintendent was offered a 2002 Buick Century, but declined and drives his own car instead. And in Boston, their superintendent would not accept a car or a stipend.
Here in Detroit, Roberts just announced a 10% pay cut for every single DPS employee – and that has many of our viewers crying foul.
Sounding off on here www.wxyz.com, Thomas Wilson Jr. writes: “What hypocrisy. I see Roy Roberts believes in the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ philosophy. He can afford his own vehicle.”
Lawrence Lee chimed in, saying, “The right thing to do would have been to turn down the vehicle and the driver.”
Sam Rydel agrees, saying: “If I hear one more politician saying something about shared sacrifice, I’m gonna scream.. The price of one SUV could be wages for an entire year for some people!”
Lee Wos had a different view: “It’s a drop in the never ending black hole called Detroit and DPS.”
DFT President Keith Johnson agrees that $40,000 in a $1.3 Billion budget may not seem like a lot of money – but its money that could have been used for the students.
“Buying a $40,000 vehicle does absolutely nothing to educate children… We’ll really know when children report on September 6, and if there’s one classroom that doesn’t have a set of books, we can look at that $40,000 and say how many sets of books would that have bought,” says Johnson.
Mr. Roberts declined to speak with Action News on camera, but he did tell us that he too will be taking a 10% pay cut.
We did reach out to the governor’s office for comment – but they are referring us back to DPS, saying Roberts and the district are responsible for day-to-day financial decisions.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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