WEST LOOP — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday his indicted former school chief "took her time here to enrich herself," even as he defended the "goal" behind the alleged kickback deal for principal training she arranged through a previous employer.
"It's infuriating, given the trust that was put in her, that she let people down for her own personal gain," Emanuel said.
He said Barbara Byrd-Bennett "clearly took her time here to enrich herself, and that's wrong. ... Barbara let down parents, teachers and students."
Yet he defended the notions behind the actual $23 million no-bid deal for principal training the Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer arranged with a previous employer, SUPES Academy, that led to her downfall and the federal indictment.
He called "the goal" of "professionalizing principals" with additional training a "separate" issue, adding it "was not wrong."
He insisted CPS made "gains" throughout Byrd-Bennett's tenure, in spite of the kickback scheme she allegedly "concocted" with SUPES leadership, and lauded the new Board of Education members he installed, as well as new CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson.
Byrd-Bennett was indicted on federal corruption charges last week, with U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon saying she was expected to plead guilty to arranging a 10 percent kickback scheme on the contract when she's arraigned on Tuesday.
Emanuel cited email exchanges, revealed by the Chicago Sun-Times, in which Byrd-Bennett criticized the scrutiny the deal received from City Hall.
"My staff did the right thing by asking hard questions," he added. "It was clear that Barbara was upset about it."
Emanuel said otherwise he had no role in the deal, adding, "I don't get involved in contracts."
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