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Inspector General's Report Reveals New CPS Scandal

CHICAGO (CBS)--She's in federal prison, but the disgraced former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd Bennett , is at the center of a new scandal.

The operator of six CPS alternative schools, Camelot Education, allegedly hired two of Byrd-Bennett's former associates to gain access to $67 million in CPS contracts.

An investigation by the Inspector General's office alleges Byrd-Bennett's former associates, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas--who are also in prison--received $300,000 in consulting fees from Camelot Education for working with Byrd-Bennett to successfully place those schools inside Chicago.

The three are linked in a new report alleging Bryd-Bennett helped steer a contract to Camelot, according to allegations in the report.

"It was through the influence of Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas that they were able to establish the foothold that they did in Chicago so quickly," said Nicholas Schuler, Inspector General for the Board of Education.

Excel Roseland was the first school Camelot opened.

Prior to 2012 when the School Board approved the school's opening, Byrd-Bennett allegedly threatened a CPS official in an attempt to get the Board to take swift action.

The Inspector General says she allegedly ordered the unnamed CPS officials to "make it happen or suffer a miserable fate."

Bryd-Bennett's threats, the Inspector General says, were the driving force behind the School Board's decision to open the school.

Camelot eventually opened six CPS-operated schools, which over the years cost taxpayers $68 million.

"That kind of dealing can't go on," Schuler said. "it's not a transparent contracting process--it's an improper thumb on the scale for getting work."

CEO of Camelot Education, Andrew Morris, maintained the company's innocence on Tuesday when speaking with CBS 2's political reporter Derrick Blakley.

"We competed fairly and openly," Morris said, adding that the company had no knowledge that Solomon and Vranas were crossing the line.

CPS is working on implementing a recommendation from the Inspector General to ban Camelot Education from opening new schools in the city.

Camelot Education has denied allegations of unethical conduct.



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