Former Chicago Public Schools Chief to Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges

It was reported on Thursday that former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett intends to plead guilty to charges that she took bribes while steering up to $23 million in no-bid contracts to a consulting firm she worked for prior to taking over as head of the CPS.

Byrd-Bennett was served a 23-count indictment on Thursday, charging that she steered sweetheart deals to her former employer, SUPES Academy. According to the Chicago Tribune, Byrd-Bennett is going to plead guilty to the charges and is cooperating fully with the investigation.

The indictment charged that Byrd-Bennett, an appointee of former Obama Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, steered the contracts to SUPES “in expectation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”

The indictment also alleges that SUPES Academy arranged for jobs for Byrd-Bennett’s friends and supporters as another form of payback.

Along with Byrd-Bennett, four others were indicted each on 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud—except for one who was hit with one less count of wire fraud.

Charged were Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, co-owners of SUPES Academy, along with two companies involved.

“Graft and corruption in our city’s public school system tears at the fabric of a vital resource for the children of Chicago,” U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said in a statement released Thursday morning. “School officials and city vendors who abuse the public trust will be held accountable.”

Among the information released about the case is one email in which Byrd-Bennett joked with an official at SUPES: “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit (:”

“I think those emails reflect greed,” U.S. Attorney Fardon said.

Byrd-Bennett was Mayor Emmanuel’s hand-picked candidate to head the Chicago Public Schools in October of 2012, but in April of 2015, she left the position on a “personal leave” after it became clear that she was being investigated for her part in the CPS award of a $20.5 million no-bid contract to SUPES. By June, she resigned.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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