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Ex-CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett Investigated For Sketchy Detroit Schools Contract

By Kate Shepherd in News on Nov 3, 2015 11:27PM

Former CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett's legal issues probably aren't over, even after pleading guilty to fraud last month.

An FBI agent believes that she "fraudulently" steered a $40 million contract to one of the country’s biggest textbook publishers during her time working in the Detroit public schools, according to documents obtained by the Sun-Times.

Authorities suspected that two aides, both later worked for CPS, helped her rig the textbook bidding process in favor of her former employer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the Sun-Times reported. The educational publisher earned about $40 million in federal stimulus funds from the contract. No charges have been filed in the investigation into the 2009 deal.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Richard Jensen told a judge in 2013 that "he thought Byrd-Bennett 'worked with and through' longtime aides Sherry Ulery and Tracy Martin and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt executive John Winkler in a fraudulent scheme."

About three weeks before the contracting process for the deal started, an “unusual financial transaction” occurred. There was a $26,530.26 deposit into Byrd-Bennett's Money Market account on July 20, 2009 from ‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt', according to the records.

She worked for the publisher again just a couple months after leaving the Detroit public schools and was offered $182,000 a year to work 21 hours a week, according to the FBI.

The information comes from a March 2013 affidavit filed by the FBI and obtained by the Sun-Times for a warrant to search Byrd-Bennett’s AOL email account. Jensen wrote that he thought would find emails that would show she lied to officials in Detroit about her relationship with the publisher and her conflict of interest.

If it isn't already strange enough that she used AOL in 2013, it's same email she allegedly used to work out the details of her corrupt SUPES deal in Chicago.