Today, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for bribery and using her position in charge of CPS to grant contracts to connected businesses.
Last year, Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to her role in the bribery and kickback scheme, in which she was guaranteed more than $2 million in bribes to deliver $20 million in CPS contracts to SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates—companies where she worked before taking the helm at CPS.
Faisal Khan, CEO of Project Six, has issued the following statement on Byrd-Bennett’s sentencing:
“While it is a sad day for the families in CPS, it is also shameful for Chicago that the crimes of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Gary Solomon and SUPES Academy were able to happen in the first place. Byrd-Bennett and the others involved in this bribery scheme are being held responsible for their actions and crimes. But the damages to CPS and the resources that were denied students were allowed to happen by Chicago’s easily manipulated contract system.
“Chicago’s bidding for contracts process is archaic and fertile ground for corruption. Many other cities use blind contracting systems to award city contracts and prevent scandals like this from happening in the first place. There is no reason why Chicago can’t do the same.
“Chicagoans were lucky that Byrd-Bennett and Gary Solomon, the head of SUPES Academy, were caught for their crimes. But the city might not be as lucky the next time, or the time after that. Chicagoans deserve justice and a guarantee that the mayor and City Council will enact real substantive reforms that will prevent these crimes from happening again. The time for lip service is over.”
- Byrd-Bennett helped steer a $20 million CPS contract to SUPES Academy for school supervisors and principals training. The owners of SUPES Academy agreed to pay Byrd-Bennett 10 percent of the $20 million deal as a “finders fee.”
- Before Byrd-Bennett was appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools in 2012 she worked for SUPES Academy, a “leadership development” organization focusing on education.
- At the time the $20 million SUPES contract was awarded, CPS’ annual financial report showed CPS was running a deficit of $2.8 billion.
- The SUPES contract was approved unanimously and without discussion by the Chicago Board of Education. The Board of Education is comprised of political appointees, selected by the mayor of Chicago.
- Earlier this year Gary Solomon, a co-owner of SUPES Academy, was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison for his role in the scheme. Solomon was tapped by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transition team to help find former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. Solomon was also closely tied to Byrd-Bennett being named CPS CEO after Brizard.
- Byrd-Bennett listed working for SUPES Academy on the resume she provided to CPS. Byrd-Bennett lied on multiple occasions when asked if she would benefit in any way from any deal the city made with SUPES Academy.
- Chicago’s contracting system allows elected officials and political appointees to decide how city contracts are awarded to city vendors and outside companies. No blind contracting system is in place to prevent any conflicts of interest from interfering with the city’s system.
Faisal Khan is available for interview at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse or at the Project Six offices at 53 W. Jackson Blvd.
For bookings or interviews:
Nathaniel Hamilton, firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 618-6238