DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Highland Park school board member who’s been battling Michigan’s emergency manager law has been charged with embezzling from the financially struggling district.

Robert Davis stood mute during Friday’s arraignment in Detroit federal court. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf by U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen.

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Davis, 32, is accused of getting $125,000 through two schemes in which he used so-called “cover companies” and false invoices to the district for payment.

United States Attorney Barbara McQuade said one scheme involved the submission of false invoices for purchases in excess of $380,000 for advertising on behalf of the school district. She said the other involved the submission of false invoices in excess of $49,000 for services and expenditures relating to a Saturday educational program for district students.

Davis allegedly concealed his involvement with the companies, whose names appeared on the invoices, and concealed the fact that he took a substantial portion of the payments for his own use.

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He has said he’s not guilty and called the case politically motivated.

If found guilty of all counts, Davis faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He was freed on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Davis has been involved in a legal challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law, saying the state has violated open meeting laws in the lead-up to takeovers of local communities.

Highland Park schools currently face an $11.3 budget deficit while student enrollment continues to plummet, down 58 percent over the past five years.

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