PSF Asks ‘What Went Wrong’ With CPS Sole-Source Contract Scandal

Image of business contract on background of two employees handshaking Image of business contract on background of two employees handshaking

Spend Matters is based in Chicago, the “most corrupt major city” in the country. Over on our sister site Public Spend Forum, Jonathan Messinger detailed how that corruption has seeped its way into the contract process of Chicago Public Schools. His article, Chicago Public Schools and the Sole-Source Contract from Hell, looks at what went wrong in the sole-source contract scandal led by Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former chief of CPS.

Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to a felony count of wire fraud this week for pushing through a $20.5 million sole-source contract on the basis the company would give her $2.3 million in kickbacks and have a job waiting for her when her tenure was up at CPS.

What went wrong and what can we learn from this tale of Chicago corruption?. Well, a lot of things, starting with the fact that there never should have been a sole-source contract.

A no-bid contract has but one underlying requirement that must be fulfilled to even consider going that route: It has to be justified,” Jonathan wrote.How did this contract even get to the Board of Education for approval as a no-bid, when there was clearly no urgency, and there’s competition just waiting outside the door?”

Head over to PSF to read the full article. Jonathan takes readers through how better accountability in CPS leadership — ahem, Mayor Rahm Emanuel — could have also prevented this scandal. But, corruption is “the Chicago way,” after all, and clearly, our government has a hard time shaking that reputation.

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