What A Disappointment
It was a sad day in Chicago for Black folks when the news came down that Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools plans to plead guilty to corruption charges announced last Thursday. Mouths dropped and those of us who were holding on to the last bastion of hope, cried “say it ain’t so.”
The long-awaited indictment comes six months after CPS revealed the federal probe by divulging it had received grand jury subpoenas seeking an array of documents on the SUPES contract. Soon after, Byrd-Bennett took a paid leave of absence and then resigned in May.
What makes this so terrible is that she did what she did at the expense of our children’s education. And further, the handling of this scam was so careless and reckless at best. I will say this, I’m in agreement with Mayor Emanuel who said, he was “both disappointed and saddened by the details around the charges. I think when people serve the public, they should uphold the trust the public puts in them. At least based on the details around the charges, that wasn’t the case here.”
What makes me even more angry is that when first approached by the investigators Ms. Byrd-Bennett acted as if she assumed that she’d get away with it. Sure she walked away from CPS a month or so before her contract was up for renewal. Did she think she’d get away with it? And if she did, how stupid is she?
Gary Solomon, her boss at SUPES used his power of persuasion with the Emanuel administration to help get Byrd-Bennett hired into Chicago’s top educational position. Shortly after, he sent an email allegedly laying out the rollout of what amounted to a multi-million dollar bribery scheme. Who in their right mind does that?
Anyone with any sort of technical sense or savvy knows that all emails can be traced—that most likely your company has spyware that can check your hard drive at any point. So why would anyone correspond via their work/professional email accounts? Do these people not believe that fat meat is greasy? Or are we to believe that they are so arrogant as to think that they would never be caught? For goodness sake, they set up a scheme that would raise a red flag. Byrd-Bennett headed a CPS committee set up to evaluate no-bid contracts. They initially balked at awarding SUPES, her ex employer, a noncompetitive deal, but less than a month later approved the plan. They presented a contract which involved a training program for principals and other mid-level administrators that greatly expanded a pilot program from 2011. A short time later, in October 2012, the board awarded the first $2 million contract to SUPES, records show.
Red flag, red flag, red flag!
Gary Solomon, the owner of SUPES Academy and a consultant with long ties to the Emanuel administration, assured Byrd-Bennett that trust accounts had been set up in the names of two of her young relatives in December 2012. Each of the two accounts would be funded with tens of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors alleged. The cash would be Bryd-Bennett’s once she stepped down from her public post and rejoined his firm. So it had to have been their plan all along before she was hired by CPS. We have to assume that, because, Solomon lobbied on Byrd-Bennett’s behalf, who was the lead trainer at SUPES at the time she was hired as chief education officer in April 2012. And only two months later Solomon sent his first email to Byrd-Bennett (now reduced to BB as she will be referred to here on) citing the plan. “It is our assumption that the distribution will serve as a signing bonus upon your return to SUPES,” Solomon wrote, according to prosecutors. “If you only join for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day.”
The secret bonus was just one part of a massive scheme outlined in a criminal indictment Thursday charging BB, 66, with steering no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to SUPES in return for promises of up to $2.3 million in kickbacks, other perks and a job.
Solomon, 47, and co-owner Thomas Vranas, 34, also were criminally charged in the 23-count indictment, as was SUPES, their Wilmette-based business, and Synesi Associates, another education consulting company the two ran.
At a news conference outlining the indictment Thursday afternoon,U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon revealed that BB is cooperating with investigators and plans to plead guilty to the charges and testify if necessary. What more is there to reveal? Is it possible that the CPS committee that granted the contract is party to the scheme as well? Will others be indicted soon?
I am so annoyed with BB for her stupidity, lax in judgment and her lack of regard for the children whom she failed. So I must agree with Fardon who referred to the motive in the case as flat-out “greed,” calling BB, “a public official who compromised her integrity … by looking to line her own pockets.”