Investigation concludes Heights gift cards benefited district

Sept. 18, 2018, LANSING – An independent law firm has completed its investigation into the giving of gift cards to educators and volunteers who served children attending the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System during the 2017-18 school year.

The Michigan Department of Education requested that the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District investigate a recent report that Muskegon Heights Superintendent Rane Garcia distributed gift cards on two occasions to staff employed by a third party contractor. Muskegon Area ISD hired the Thrun Law Firm, P.C., to conduct an independent investigation.

In a letter to Muskegon Area ISD Monday, the law firm reported that, “it does not appear that Superintendent Garcia intended to violate any policies, contracts, or laws through the issuance of the gift cards. A preponderance of the evidence available indicates that she issued the gift cards to retain Academy teachers and staff.”

Thrun concluded that the gift card purchase was for an educational purpose. It did not violate school policy nor violate any employment or other contracts. However, it was done with public funds and was considered a “technical infraction” of Section 1814, Revised School Code. According to the report this infraction was not egregious.

“We accept the findings of the independent investigation,” said Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles. “I understand the incident was unintentional. I am assured that Superintendent Garcia’s actions were in the best interest of the district to recognize the commitment of Muskegon Heights staff, and provide continuity for the students in their classrooms.”

The Michigan Department of Education will request the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System submit an action plan to address the report findings.