EX-PRINCIPAL CONFESSES CRIMES TO COLUMNIST
By Rochelle Riley
Detroit Free Press Metro columnist
The first time Kenyetta (K.C.) Wilbourn Snapp broke the law, she had been in a new job for less than a week.
It was 2009. She was in her first stint as a principal, and she was to run Denby High School, the city’s worst-performing school that year. The Detroit native was eager to achieve — and eager to please.
“I was the first person to make it in my family, so everybody started coming around,” she said. “My grandmother showed up and Food Services hired her. … Then comes my uncle tagging along and, I’m like, ‘Do I have to give him a job?’ ”
She had no job available, so she asked her football coach to hire her uncle as an assistant. She paid him using funds from a DPS vendor. That vendor paid Snapp $750 every time she gave him the names of 20 students for a tutoring program. She said she doesn’t know whether the program actually existed.
The second time she broke the law, she buried a student’s mother. With school funds.
She knew it was illegal. But after the first few times, stealing became easy. Then it became routine. And Snapp, a beloved high school principal by day, became a savvy, well-connected crook around the clock.
“If you needed money, you could get money,” Snapp, 40, told the Free Press in a series of exclusive interviews.
She accepted my call because I wrote the story six years ago of how she turned Denby around in 2009. She said she wanted to try to explain why she did what she did.
“There’s a network,” she said. “It’s so deep.”
If Kwame Kilpatrick is Detroit’s greatest example of a municipal leader who forfeited a brilliant career to be a player, Snapp, may become the poster child for a home-grown educator who squandered her career for money.
Snapp — who was indicted Thursday and recently told the Free Press that she agreed to plead guilty to charges of bribery and tax evasion in exchange for leniency — is at the heart of a federal corruption investigation into the Education Achievement Authority, the state reform district for the lowest-performing schools. The EAA oversees 15 schools in Detroit.
Federal authorities are examining relationships between school officials and vendors who appear to have been paid for work not done or work billed at rates much higher than contracted. Investigators have spent more than a year sifting through thousands of documents that portray a “family business” with employees helping vendors, vendors helping employees and everyone helping themselves.
Snapp was indicted along with Glynis Thornton, whose company, Making a Difference Everyday, was paid to provide after-school tutoring services for students at Denby and Mumford, where Snapp became principal in 2013, and Paulette Horton, an independent contractor connected to Thornton’s company.
The three women were each charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to launder money. Snapp, in addition, was charged with federal tax evasion and Horton was charged with failure to file a federal income tax return.
When Snapp told the Free Press that she had funneled public school funds to nearly 1,000 consultants, local businesses, parents, family and friends, those muffled wails you heard across the city were the sounds of hope dying.
“Let me be honest, I benefited,” she said. “I couldn’t have $2,000 in my pocket from a vendor … and not buy gas for the car.”
That would be the red Maserati, a gift from a school vendor that became a red flag for federal investigators. After FBI agents raided her Detroit home a year ago, Snapp got rid of the car.
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