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CPS And College Of DuPage Receive Subpoenas As Part Of Separate Federal Investigations

By Danette Chavez in News on Apr 16, 2015 4:35PM


This week is shaping up to be a real doozy for secondary and higher education in or around Chicago. Two separate federal investigations have been launched to look into misconduct at the financial and administrative levels at two Illinois institutions.

We'll start locally with the inquiry at the Chicago Public Schools. Federal investigators are looking into a $20 million no-bid contract that was awarded to the SUPES Academy in 2012. SUPES was contracted to head up a training program called the Chicago Executive Leadership Academy (CELA) because of its unique ability to "tap a bevy of school administrators to teach workshops and serve as coaches."

The $20 million contract was one of four CPS contracts awarded to SUPES in 2012. CPS paid SUPES over $25 million that year for their consulting services. This kind of expenditure at a time when the budget was already in crisis prompted Catalyst Chicago to delve into the matter back in 2013. The $20 million contract that SUPES received for their "leadership development services" remains the largest handed out in the last few years and, as president and CEO of the Better Government Association Andy Shaw noted, deserved more scrutiny.

Instead, it was approved with little fanfare after internal review, this despite CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's previous affiliation with SUPES. She worked as a coach for SUPES up until she began the consulting work at CPS that ultimately led to Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointing her as CEO. Byrd-Bennett herself is not the subject of the current investigation.

Meanwhile out in Glen Ellyn, the College of DuPage received two subpoenas earlier in the week as part of a criminal investigation into the school's spending, contracts with its foundation and the issuing of credits to campus law enforcement. This federal interest comes on the heels of county and state investigations, where subpoenas were also issued to look into the school's misuse of taxpayer funds through exorbitant spending by school administrators. These previous investigations found that college president Robert Breuder and other managers hosted nearly 500 meals at the school's pricey Waterleaf restaurant, with the school footing the bill.

The Chicago Tribune obtained copies of the subpoenas by FOIA request and found that it's not just the college's spending that's now under examination. Federal investigators are expanding the scope and looking at the school's contracts with its fundraising foundation, as well as the practice of awarding credits to police recruits at the law enforcement academy on campus.

This investigation comes on the heels of some major changes in the administration of the College of DuPage: three new board members were just elected and the school bought out the remaining three years of Breuder's contract, giving him a six-figure severance.