Ex-Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett To Plead Guilty To Corruption Charges
By Kate Shepherd in News on Oct 8, 2015 7:20PM
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is set to plead guilty to federal corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon told reporters at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Shortly after she was picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 to run CPS in the wake of a teacher's strike, she allegedly started a scheme to award no-bid contracts to her former employer SUPES Academy in exchange for bribes and kickbacks, according to ABC7.
The contracts she awarded SUPES, which specializes in training principals and school administrators, were worth more than $23 million and she got meals, tickets to games, reimbursements and a promise of a post-CPS job with a $250,000 signing bonus in return, the Tribune reported.
The kickback money was hidden by funneling it into bank accounts set up in the names of two of Byrd-Bennett's undisclosed relatives.
"They entered a scheme to secretly profit at the expense of students," Fardon said in the news conference. "Most people understand that when you go to work for the government, you can't secretly line your pockets, that's an old and steadfast rule."
The defendants Byrd-Bennett, SUPES, SUPES subsidiary Synesi Associates and the companies' co-owners Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas were all charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud-except for Vranas, who was indicted on four counts of wire fraud. Solomon and Vranas were also charged with two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S.
Solomon has deep ties to the Emanuel administration and helped recruit Byrd-Bennett's predecessor Jean-Claude Brizard, and recommended Byrd-Bennett to Emanuel, according to the Tribune.
"I am saddened and disappointed to learn about the criminal activity that led to today's indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett," Emanuel said in a statement. "Our students, parents, teachers and principals deserve better."
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis had a cordial relationship with Byrd-Bennett and wished the former CEO well in her legal troubles.
"The circumstances surrounding the indictment of the former CEO are unfortunate and mark a sad day for the leadership of our district," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement. "While we wish Mrs. Byrd-Bennett well in her legal battles, the Chicago Teachers Union remains fully and unequivocally committed to securing a fair contract for our members and ensuring their ability to properly serve the public school students and families in the city of Chicago."
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Byrd-Bennett's indictment marks "a sad day" for the school district:
“While we wish Mrs. Byrd-Bennett well in her legal battles, the Chicago Teachers Union remains fully and unequivocally committed to securing a fair contract for our members and ensuring their ability to properly serve the public school students and families in the city of Chicago.”