CHICAGO — A former Chicago Public Schools principal turned a blind eye as an employee at his school was paid $121,893 over two years despite not showing up to work and living in California.
The computer technician was aided in the scheme by a school clerk who continued to clock her into work at a CPS elementary school with the “apparent approval” of the principal, according to the district’s top watchdog.
In addition to the ghost payroll scheme, the employee violated CPS’ Code of Ethics “by engaging in improper self-dealing” with a printing company where she and her husband were corporate officers, according to the report.
While employed by CPS, the technician’s printing company sold $237,307 worth of products to 14 district schools, including $65,790 in printing supplies that she purchased on behalf of the elementary school where she worked.
The wrongdoing was made public in the wide-ranging annual report released by CPS Inspector General Will Fletcher that included a review of sexual misconduct allegations and the revelation former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett steered millions more district dollars to her friends than has previously been reported.
The report does not name the employee or principal involved in the fraud, and both resigned after the fraud was uncovered and did not cooperate with the investigation.
Fletcher recommended the district ban the technician, her husband and the printing company from conducting business with the district. Board of Education representatives said they have started the process to do so, although the case is still pending.
The school district has already placed the technician and principal on a do-not-hire list.
The school clerk who aided the technician by clocking her into work retired prior to the fraud being discovered, and has subsequently been placed on a do-not-hire list.
The 109-page Inspector General’s report detailed other instances of CPS employees defrauding the district by manipulating time-card systems, fabricating stories to receive days off and CPS teachers and students living outside the district in violation of district policy.
Principal Calls In Sick To Play With Band In Las Vegas, Report Says
Fletcher’s report includes instances where employees misused sick time or other benefits, including a former principal who lied about being sick in order to perform with his band at a music festival in Las Vegas.
Despite claiming to be sick, the principal’s band posted photos on social media showing him traveling with the band. When confronted about the discrepancy, the principal lied, the report states, and continued to mislead OIG investigators.
Initially, the principal admitted to investigators he was in Las Vegas, but said he had used a vacation day, not a sick day. However, an email he sent requesting the sick day for a medical procedure proved that claim false.
Next, he admitted he used a sick day and provided investigators a doctor’s note “of questionable authenticity” that failed to account for his time in Las Vegas, according to the report.
The school district fired the principal and removed him from future principal eligibility.
Vendor Farmed Out Company Work To Unpaid Students, Report Alleges
A for-profit CPS vendor paid to provide vocational training programs for students fraudulently claimed non-profit status, then obtained funds from CPS and farmed out work for the company to unpaid CPS students under the guise of the training program, according to the report.
The vendor was not named in the report.
The school district previously purchased classroom supplies from the vendor, but starting in 2014 the vendor sought contracts with CPS to offer “manufacturing internships” to students, claiming it was operating “under the umbrella” of a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
The vendor promised students would receive stipends and assistance with vocational and educational opportunities in exchange for performing basic manufacturing and business tasks.
But, the OIG investigation found “the vendor was essentially receiving CPS funds to use students as a supplemental source of labor” that otherwise would’ve been performed by paid employees. The vendor failed to deliver on the stipends and assistance to students, including help obtaining post-graduate internships, according to the report.
“When one student inquired about the internship, a representative of the vendor drove the student to one of the City Colleges and simply dropped him off there,” the report states.
The investigation found all payments made by CPS to the vendor went to a for-profit company.
The vendor’s president and vice president did not cooperate with the investigation.
Although the OIG found CPS did not perform background checks on the vendor or it’s employees from 2014-2018, the report states CPS has since improved its background check process.
At the recommendation of the OIG, CPS has started proceedings to ban the vendor, its president and vice president.
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