Lat­est con­tract­ing scan­dal hasn’t shaken Light­foot’s con­fi­dence in CPS CEO Jack­son

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

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.”

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