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Robert Davis, convicted of embezzling from students, offered Wayne County job

"I have a great reputation," he said, "in spite of the mistakes that I made."
Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 19:28:34-05

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Robert Davis, the serial litigator who was imprisoned for stealing $200,000 from Highland Park Schools, is poised to begin collecting a taxpayer-funded salary as an employee of the Wayne County Commission.

“I’ve known him since he was a child,” said Commissioner Martha Scott (D-Highland Park), who confirms offering Davis a job as a legislative assistant in her office.

Scott added that Davis “is not working for me yet.”

Six years ago this month, Davis was sentenced to prison for embezzling nearly $200,000 from the students of Highland Park.

“I learned my lesson,” Davis said outside of federal court moments after Judge Arthur Tarnow sentenced him to to 18-months behind bars.

Federal prosecutors said that Davis, while President of the Highland Park School Board, funneled money to shell companies that was then funneled to him.

Davis, then an employee of AFSCME, was barred from working for a labor union until 2029.

As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to pay the district back about $198,000 in restitution. After paying it off in installments of $10 a month, today Davis is making payments of $50 a month which he says the court approved.

Davis says he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll accept the Wayne County job.

“I’m very grateful for Commissioner Scott, who I’ve known since I was a young kid,” he said in an interview with Channel 7’s Ross Jones.

If Davis accepts, this would be his second government job since he was released from prison. Since 2017 he’s worked in the office of State Rep. LaTanya Garrett, who is term-limited out at the end of this month, meaning Davis is looking for work.

“In spite of the mistakes in which I have made, I’m probably more qualified than many of the individuals who hold certain state positions,” Davis said.

But at least one of Martha Scott’s colleagues in the Wayne County Commission, Ray Basham of Taylor, says hiring Davis would be a mistake.

“I’m shocked,” Basham said, “and quite frankly I wouldn’t hire him.”

He added later: “You’re taking taxpayer money to pay back taxpayer money, that doesn’t make much sense at all to me.”

Alisha Bell, Chairwoman of the Wayne County Commission, struck a more supportive tone in a text message to 7 Action News, saying: "I believe in second chances and someone's past shouldn't prevent them from a productive future.”

Martha Scott declined an on-camera interview about Davis’s impending hire and declined to say how much she was offering him in salary.

Davis said that the job would pay approximately what he’s making with the state today, about $42,000 and stressed that any job, even a government one, gives him a better chance to fully pay his restitution to the students of Highland Park.

At $50 a month, he’d have it paid off in 325 years.

“Individuals who may have been committed of any type of crime, be it murder or embezzlement or abuse of public trust,” he said, “they have a right to a second chance.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.