CHICAGO-- Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, will plead guilty to federal corruption charges, according to U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois.
Byrd-Bennett was charged with mail and wire fraud for her alleged role in a bribery and kickback scheme related to a $20.5 million Chicago Public Schools contract while serving as the district’s Chief Executive Officer.
According to federal authorities, Byrd-Bennett concocted the scheme with Gary Solomon, the former Dean of Niles Township High School and CEO of the SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates LLC. Both companies offered education-related services. Also named in the federal indictment was Thomas Vranas, President of both companies and a former student of Solomon, according to federal investigators.
Byrd-Bennett and Solomon were accused of detailing their scheme in emails. Byrd-Bennett would allegedly receive ten percent of any CPS contract she steered to SUPES, along with a signing bonus when she went to work with the company following her tenure with Chicago schools. The pair is also accused of setting up trust accounts for two unnamed relatives of Byrd-Bennett where kickback money could be deposited.
The U.S. Attorney said Byrd-Bennett did consulting work with SUPES Academy prior to working with the Chicago schools. She was also accused of taking a plane ticket, as well as tickets to sporting events and free meals.
Byrd-Bennett has been on paid leave from the Chicago School District since reports of the federal investigation surfaced six months ago.