Byrd-Bennett to appear in federal court Tuesday | WBEZ
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Emanuel: Byrd-Bennett 'let down parents, teachers and students'

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s last hand-picked Chicago Public Schools CEO is set to appear in court Tuesday over federal corruption charges.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted Thursday—and her lawyers said she will plead guilty. At the center of the corruption charges is a $20-million no-bid contract between CPS and Byrd-Bennett’s former employer, SUPES Academy. The 23-count criminal indictment outlines how she steered a total of $23 million in CPS contracts to SUPES in exchange for kickbacks   

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Monday, at an unrelated press conference, that Byrd-Bennett had “let down parents, teachers and students.”

“She clearly took her time here to enrich herself and that is wrong, full stop,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel also defended himself, and his staff, saying that while he had a hand in her initial hiring, he was not involved with the SUPES contract.  

“I don’t get involved in contracts. When a mayor gets involved in contracts, you have a problem,” Emanuel said.

As for his staff, Emanuel said they “did the right thing by asking hard questions” about the contract.  Emails obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend show the mayor’s office did direct a former CPS spokesperson, named Dave Miranda, to ask questions about the contract. The questions, which the Sun-Times , also published in full, include: “How much money is spent on principal development in total?” and, “Do we have any principals or third-party validators who could speak favorably about the program?”

Such questions are routinely exchanged between a city press spokesperson and their supervisors ahead of a public meeting or announcement, in order to be prepared to respond to reporter inquiries.

Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ.  Follow her @laurenchooljian. WBEZ Education Reporter Becky Vevea contributed to this report. Follow her @wbezeducation.

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