The [Thursday] Papers
"Federal authorities are investigating a 'matter' at CPS that sources tell Catalyst Chicago involves CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the $20 million no-bid contract given to SUPES Academy."
Sources are telling other media organizations the same thing. Sources seem to want us to know.
"The CPS inspector general has been investigating Byrd-Bennett and the controversial SUPES contract since 2013."
Catalyst reporter Sarah Karp tells Ken Davis that the IG's investigation had gone on so long she thought that maybe the SUPES matter had been dropped, but instead she was repeatedly told it was "top of mind."
"The inspector general's investigation was spurred by a Catalyst investigation that detailed Byrd-Bennett's connection with the for-profit, Wilmette-based SUPES Academy. Byrd-Bennett had worked as a coach for SUPES until she was hired at CPS and there's some evidence that she continued to consult with related companies after she was on CPS' payroll. In June 2013, the School Board quietly awarded SUPES the $20 million contract, which was the largest no-bid contract in the district's recent history, according to Catalyst's review of board reports."
Catalyst's original 2013 article reported:
"Up until April 2012, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant to the Supes Academy. At that time, she was brought on at CPS as the chief education advisor to then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, a contract position for which she was paid $21,500 a month."
Though the Supes Academy contract stands out because of its size, the Chicago School Board approves no-bid contracts on a regular basis. In some cases, CPS includes the reason why the contract did not go through a competitive process. In this case, as in some others, the board documents state only that it was approved by the chief purchasing officer.
In its current story, Catalyst notes:
"Byrd-Bennett did not answer Catalyst's questions about the contract in the summer of 2013. But in a follow-up story in October she said the intent of the SUPES contract was to provide comprehensive principal professional development. Yet for the past three years, principals - who were at first required to attend the trainings - have complained bitterly about the content, stating that the sessions were too basic and were led by administrators from other districts who knew nothing about the problems principals face in Chicago."
"[A] grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year," the Tribune reports.
"CPS officials have discussed the possibility of appointing an interim CEO depending on the outcome of the investigation, a source said."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose relationship with Byrd-Bennett, I'm told, has been frosty for about a year, refused to offer her a vote of confidence.
"A former teacher, Byrd-Bennett previously held top posts at school districts in New York and Detroit," the Trib notes.
"She led the Cleveland school district from 1998 to 2006. There, her use of private donations on expensive hotels and fancy restaurants led to a state audit. The audit found no wrongdoing but recommended the district keep a tighter watch on spending."
"Meanwhile, two City Hall sources told the Sun-Times that Byrd-Bennett's $250,000-a-year contract, set to expire in June, has not yet been renewed nor will it be unless the investigation is cleared up . . .
"For weeks, CPS has dodged the question of whether Byrd-Bennett's three-year contract would be renewed for the mayor's second term.
"After Wednesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he did not know enough about the matter to comment - or to give a vote of confidence to Byrd-Bennett.
"I don't even know who they're looking at. It's a CPS matter," Emanuel said.
I love how Rahm acts here like CPS is totally out of his hands - it's a matter that doesn't involve him. Besides the campaign he just ran taking credit for all of CPS's supposed achievements since he's been mayor.
"Emanuel said he spoke to Byrd-Bennett briefly before Tuesday's luncheon marking the Chicago Public Education Fund's 15th anniversary, and 'she said the authorities are looking at a matter at CPS. Then I had to go into the luncheon to give a speech.'"
And I haven't asked her about it since because that's just not my nature!
CPD Also Under Federal Investigation
"The October 2014 shooting death of Laquon McDonald hasn't generated the same kind of national attention as other recent high-profile confrontations involving officers. After some, in such places as South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arizona, video was released that quickly went viral.
"In approving a settlement even before McDonald's family filed a lawsuit, some members of the Chicago City Council disagreed on whether releasing the video could spark the kind of angry protests seen elsewhere."
Okay, that's not really the point; the point is if the video is a public document and the CPD is violating the law by withholding it.
"Although the city's attorney had cited the video in arguing for approval of the settlement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained Wednesday that police and the FBI are withholding it because it is 'central to their investigation.' In a statement, city officials said they were 'confident this video will be released at the appropriate time when their investigation is complete.'"
I don't think that meets the legal standard necessary to deny release of the video.
"But pending investigations haven't prevented other law enforcement departments from releasing video of contentious and, in many cases, deadly recent encounters involving officers."
"Police in North Charleston, South Carolina, released dash-cam video that showed an officer making a routine traffic stop and the suspect running away. That video was released only after a witness' cellphone video went viral showing the officer later shooting the suspect in the back. The officer has been charged with murder.
"A reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was booked on a manslaughter charge this week after video recorded on a sunglass camera was released to the public showing an officer tackling a suspect before a shot rang out.
"And on Wednesday, dramatic dash-cam video was made public of a Marana, Arizona, police officer plowing his cruiser into a rifle-toting robbery suspect at high speed. The officer has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing."
Exactly. What I'd like to know is if the mayor's office played any role in the decision not to release the video - not that the CPD needs any help stiffing the public. C'mon, Rahm, the election is over. You have four years to recover from what we're sure to eventually see.
"Even in Chicago, where the department has been dogged by a reputation for police brutality, security video from a tavern helped convict an off-duty police officer who could be seen in 2007 pummeling a female bartender - an incident that many have speculated wouldn't have resulted in charges if not for the video.
"Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who has studied the city's police department, said videos like the one showing McDonald's death must be released if the department ever hopes to shed its reputation for excessive force, particularly in black neighborhoods."
Again, that's not the point to me. The point is whether the CPD is violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding the video.
"Policies regarding requests for such video vary sharply from state to state, said Dan Bevarly, interim director of the Missouri-based National Freedom of Information Coalition. In North Carolina, for example, many departments deem body-cam footage 'training video' for other officers to watch. As a result, they can claim an exemption from the state's open-records law and refuse to release it.
"Video of a fatal police shooting taken from a stun gun's camera is an important piece of evidence in the pending homicide case against a Pennsylvania police officer, and so far the prosecutor has declined to release it to the public.
"Even in states that appear to lean toward opening records, police departments can keep video private, including in Florida, which has claimed about 1,000 exemptions, a total far higher than the number claimed in other states, Bevarly said."
That's all very interesting, but what does Illinois law have to say about it?
"[L]et's see that video" the Tribune editorial page says.
"Releasing the video wouldn't compromise that case. The camera simply recorded the events that played out in front of the cruiser's windshield - details that ought to be part of the narrative supplied to the public.
"That's especially important in light of recent cases elsewhere in which video contradicted the accounts presented by police . . .
"In January, Chicago police began a pilot program that we hope will lead to outfitting all officers with body cameras. The point of the cameras is to increase accountability and public confidence in law enforcement. That's all out the window if the cops control who sees the video."
Agreed. What does the law say?
Here's a case that certainly seems to confirm that dash-cam video is gettable under FOIA:
"This Highland Police dash-cam video was obtained by Patrick Luchtefeld under the Freedom of Information Act the day after he was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession."
Now, I understand there may be an exception for an ongoing investigation. I'd just like readers to be told so, if that's the case.
Still going unreported by our esteemed sports corps - because they either agree with the lie and have forgotten they are journalists or they're getting the story completely wrong.
If only he kept his promises.
Like commercial and industrial properties, free speech is now zoned.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Express lane.
Posted on April 16, 2015
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