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The Latest: Chicago Public Schools mum on indictment

October 8, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) — The latest on the indictment of former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

Officials with Chicago Public Schools have declined to discuss the indictment of the district’s former CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

A statement Thursday from CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner doesn’t mention the charges against the former schools chief. The statement says the district is focused, “as always,” on its roughly 400,000 students.

Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator, was chosen by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take over the nation’s third-largest school district in 2012. She left earlier this year amid a federal investigation.

In July, Emanuel named the city’s former transit chief, Forrest Claypool, as a replacement.

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3:40 p.m.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he was “saddened and disappointed” to learn of the criminal activity alleged in a federal indictment charging his hand-picked former schools chief.

In a statement Thursday, Emanuel said students, parents, teachers and principals in the nation’s third-largest school district “deserve better.”

Emanuel chose longtime educator Barbara Byrd-Bennett to lead Chicago Public Schools in 2012. He spent much of his hard-fought re-election bid earlier this year defending his controversial schools decisions and Bennett’s hiring.

Prosecutors announced the indictment earlier Thursday. It accuses Byrd-Bennett of steering $20 million in no-bid contracts to an education company where she used to be a consultant.

Byrd-Bennett’s attorney says the former schools chief plans to plead guilty.

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3:10 p.m.

An attorney for former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett confirms that his client will plead guilty to charges in a federal indictment alleging public corruption.

Chicago-based lawyer Michael Scudder released a statement Thursday saying Byrd-Bennett accepts “full responsibility for her conduct.” The statement says she plans to plead guilty to charges in the indictment.

Scudder also says Byrd-Bennett will continue to cooperate with the government, including testifying if called upon to do so.

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3 p.m.

Chicago’s top federal prosecutor says the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools plans to plead guilty in a corruption case linked to a $20 million no-bid contract.

U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said Thursday that he was authorized by an attorney for Barbara Byrd-Bennett to announce her plans to plead guilty. Fardon didn’t specify what charges would be involved.

His office announced earlier Thursday that Byrd-Bennett had been indicted on several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud following an investigation into a no-bid contract with SUPES Academy, where she once worked as a consultant.

Byrd-Bennett stepped down as the city’s top school official earlier this year.

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2:15 p.m.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says the indictment on corruption charges involving Chicago Public Schools’ former CEO marks a “sad day” for the district’s leadership.

In a statement released Thursday, Lewis says the union wishes former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett “well in her legal battles.” Lewis says the union is now focused on securing a new contract.

The union and school district are locked in a tense contract negotiation. During the last round of negotiations, teachers in Chicago went on strike for the first time in 25 years.

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1:50 p.m.

Two education training companies and their owners are charged in a federal indictment that alleges Chicago Public Schools’ former CEO took kickbacks while steering them no-bid contracts.

An indictment released Thursday names SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates LLC, along with their owners, Gary Soloman and Thomas Vranas. Both men are charged with bribery and conspiracy to defraud, along with mail and wire fraud.

The indictment accuses former CPS leader Barbara Byrd-Bennett in an alleged bribery and kickback scheme to steer $20 million worth of no-bid contracts to the companies.

Soloman’s attorney released a statement saying Soloman has cooperated in the investigation and stands behind his companies’ training and services. The statement says Solomon has acknowledged “certain errors” in judgment, but that he’s disappointed he was charged.

Vranas and his attorney didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

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1 p.m.

Prosecutors allege that the former leader of Chicago Public Schools steered no-bid contracts to a training agency where she once worked in exchange for kickbacks and bribes.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted Thursday on 15 counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud. If convicted, she could face a maximum 20-year prison sentence on each count.

The indictment alleges that the 66-year-old steered no-bid contracts to the SUPES Academy, which trains principals.

Byrd-Bennett was chosen by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 to lead CPS. She resigned about four months ago, amid an investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract.

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12:25 p.m.

The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted Thursday, about four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant.

She took a paid leave of absence in April, following reports that federal investigators were looking into the contract.

The academy turned over records to investigators, who also asked for documents from Byrd-Bennett and other employees. CPS suspended its contract with SUPES and confirmed it had been subpoenaed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel chose Byrd-Bennett, a longtime educator, to lead the district in 2012.

CPS is the nation’s third largest school district with about 400,000 students.