Barbara Byrd Bennett allegedly steered district contracts to firm where she once worked; prosecutors say she plans to plead guilty
Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), has been accused in a federal indictment of accepting bribes in return for steering a $20.5 million contract to a consulting firm where she once worked.
UPDATE: Byrd-Bennett plans to plead guilty to some of the charges, prosecutors disclosed at an afternoon news conference, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The indictment charges Byrd-Bennett, 66 with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced. Also facing corruption charges are Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas, co-owners of SUPES Academy, the firm that received the contract in question.
"Byrd-Bennett solicited and agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in the form of personal benefits from and future employment with defendants Gary Solomon, Thomas Vranas, and the SUPES entities in exchange for acts in Byrd-Bennett's official CPS capacity that were designed to promote and bring about the awarding of CPS contracts to the SUPES Entities," the indictment alleges.
Byrd-Bennett took a leave of absence from the district in April after news of the federal probe was disclosed; she resigned in May.
Investigators were looking at what role Byrd-Bennett's played in a no-bid contract the the school system granted to SUPES Academy. The Wilmette, Ill., firm trains principals and superintendents. Byrd-Bennett had worked as a coach for SUPES prior to joining the Chicago school system.
Byrd-Bennett began working for Chicago Public Schools in 2012 as chief education officer in 2012 and became CEO later that year after the resignation of Jean-Claude Brizard.
Byrd-Bennett also has been a school administrator in Detroit, Cleveland and New York City.
After Byrd-Bennett resigned, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed his chief of staff, Forrest Claypool, as head of the city's public school system, the third-largest district in the United States.