Dear Commons Community,
Barbara Byrd-Bennett,the former head of the nation’s third-largest school district was indicted on federal fraud charges yesterday that accused her of taking bribes and kickbacks for steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to a former employer. As reported in The Huffington Post:
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, 66, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO and superintendent, was charged with 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. She was cooperating with prosecutors and has agreed to plead guilty, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said during a press briefing.
Fardon said Byrd-Bennett abused her position “to line her own pockets and those of her co-defendants.” The indictment says the scheme netted Byrd-Bennett and her two co-defendants about $2 million in cash and other valuables, which prosecutors will seek to recover.
Byrd-Bennett helped her former employer, an educational training and consulting collective, secure lucrative no-bid contracts for city schools, according to the indictment. In exchange, Byrd-Bennett received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks, which the collective disguised by funneling them into bank accounts set up under the names of Byrd-Bennett’s relatives, the indictment alleges.
The educational collective lavished the former schools chief with perks, including meals, travel and sports tickets, and promised her another job with more kickbacks disguised as a signing bonus after she stepped down from from the superintendent’s post, the indictment says.
Byrd-Bennett resigned in June amid the federal probe. Her lawyer, Michael Scudder, said Byrd-Bennett would plead guilty to the charges.
“As part of accepting full responsibility for her conduct, she will continue to cooperate with the government, including testifying truthfully if called upon to do so,” Scudder said in a statement.
Also indicted were Gary Solomon, 47, and Tom Vranas, 34. The men co-owned and operated the suburban Chicago SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates. SUPES Academy provided training and professional development for principals and other school administrators. Synesi offered educational consulting, performance analysis and turnaround programs.
The 43-page indictment alleges Byrd-Bennet her co-defendants began scheming almost immediately after she was hired for Chicago’s top schools spot in 2012. “
This is a stain for such a great American city school system trying desperately to succeed amid serious financial woes!