Despite the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel denies any involvement in a school contract scandal involving former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the mayor's office has withheld several documents relating to the scandal, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
The newspaper requested the release of about 1,000 emails from the mayor's office "that could provide a deeper understanding of how the deal came to be," but administration has only released about half of those emails and has refused to release the rest.
Byrd-Bennett was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly using her position at CPS to award lucrative no-bid contracts to her former employer at SUPES Academy in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. On Tuesday, she is scheduled to be arraigned.
A 23-count indictment alleges Byrd-Bennett steered no-bid contracts worth more than $23 million to SUPES Academy, a principal and administrator training company, in exchange for an expectation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.
In April, Tribune reporters asked Emanuel if his administration had any role in the SUPES contract, to which he replied, "No, you obviously know that by all the information available. And so the answer to that is no."
The emails that were released showed "frequent communication among key Emanuel aides, Chicago school leaders and the heads of the SUPES Academy consulting firm in the months, weeks and days leading up to Emanuel's hand-picked school board awarding the contract in June 2013," according to the Tribune.
The former owners of Wilmette-based SUPES and Evanston-based Synesi, Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas, are also tied up in the scandal. They were each charged in the indictment as well.
The indictment alleges that the companies agreed to conceal the kickback money by funneling it into accounts set up in the names of two of Byrd-Bennett's relatives. An Agreement called for the funds to be paid to Byrd-Bennett in the form of a "signing bonus" after her employment with CPS ended and the companies rehired her as a consultant, officials said. An email between Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and Vranas obtained by NBC Chicago showed the three discussing this "signing bonus."
The relationship between SUPES Academy and the city of Chicago began with Emanuel's election, the Tribune reports. Solomon allegedly recommended Byrd-Bennett for the position of CPS CEO and helped Emanuel recruit her.