Latest contracting scandal hasn’t shaken Lightfoot’s confidence in CPS CEO Jackson
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday she’s outraged by the latest contracting scandal at the Chicago Public Schools — this one involving the CEO’s chief of staff — but it’s done nothing to shake her “1,000 percent” confidence in Janice Jackson.
Pedro Soto was charged last week with lying to the FBI when asked whether he passed along secret bid information about a $1 billion contract to privatize the school system’s cleaning and engineering work. The alleged scheme was outlined in a four-page charging document known as a criminal information, which typically signals a defendant intends to plead guilty.
Federal prosecutors did not reveal how Soto might have influenced the bidding process for the custodial contract, only that he lied about it on Dec. 17, 2019, after the FBI began to dig into it.
The case against Soto involves a bidding process that began in April 2016 — just six months after former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty in a bribery scheme that landed her in prison.
Given the scandal’s juxtaposition to the Byrd-Bennett scandal, Lightfoot was asked Thursday if it had shaken her confidence in Jackson, whom she inherited from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“No, not at all. The fact of the matter is that the individual who is charged and is … gonna be pleading guilty engaged in criminal conduct. … On the basis of the information that was filed, he gave confidential information to a potential bidder for a janitorial contract,” Lightfoot said.
Also, Lightfoot said it was her understanding that the “company that was improperly seeking that information never even made it into the final three.”
When Jackson learned about the alleged bid-rigging scheme involving her right-hand man, she took “a number of immediate steps, not the least of which was” referring the case to the CPS inspector general, the mayor said.
“It’s very unfortunate that this individual who had worked for CPS for 20 years … didn’t think any better of himself, his obligation to the children of the system and to CPS itself. He will obviously pay a very high debt for what he has done and the criminal conduct that he’s presumably admitting to,” Lightfoot said.
“But this doesn’t have anything to do with the current leadership and my 100 percent — and I’ll say 1,000 percent — confidence in Dr. Jackson.”