Chicago Public Schools on Thursday filed a civil complaint seeking $65 million in damages and civil penalties from former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and others accused in a kickback scheme involving the district.
The 10-count complaint names Byrd-Bennett, Gary Solomon, Thomas Vranas, SUPES Academy and Synesi and was filed in Cook County Circuit Court. It includes allegations of civil consipracy, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and unjust enrichment, the district said.
“With scarce resources, staff furloughs and painful budget cuts, CPS is keeping a close watch on every dollar,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement. “Barbara Byrd-Bennett and her co-conspirators knew the District's dire straits and still concocted this scheme to divert needed resources away from classrooms and line their own pockets. So today CPS took action in Cook County court to go after the $65 million in damages and civil penalties that our children are entitled to receive. With serious budget challenges facing the district, we'll continue to fight for every dollar our children deserve.”
Byrd-Bennett resigned last year amid a federal probe into a no-bid contract awarded to one of her former employers, SUPES Academy. She pleaded guilty last year to charges that she steered the no-bid contract worth more than $23 million to two education consulting firms in exchange for cash kickbacks and a consulting job. She faces over seven years in prison.
Solomon and Vranas are co-defendants in the case.
"My message is for the children and the families of the children of the Chicago Public Schools and the incredible, dedicated educators we have. I am terribly sorry and I apologize to them," Byrd-Bennett said outside a courtroom last year. "They deserved much more, much more than I gave to them. And I thank you very much."
According to the complaint filed Thursday, the "defendants engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to enrich themselves at the expense of the schoolchildren of the City of Chicago." The complaint also claims CPS was unaware of the scheme at the time it was happening.