A high-ranking Chicago Public Schools official has been charged in federal court with lying to FBI investigators about giving non-public information to a lobbyist on behalf of a bidder seeking a $1 billion custodial services contract with the school district.
Federal records show Pedro Soto has been charged with a single count of lying to the FBI during an interview last December about the 2016 solicitation process for the billion-dollar contract.
Soto has served as CPS CEO Janice Jackson’s chief of staff since 2018. But in a letter to staff, Jackson said she learned of the allegations last Friday and immediately accepted Soto’s resignation, adding that his case has been turned over to the CPS inspector general for further investigation.
“Mr. Soto’s alleged conduct represents a stunning betrayal of trust and an immense failure of judgement and character,” Jackson wrote in the letter. “There is no place in our school district for anyone who would engage in these activities, and we are moving forward without him.”
According to a criminal information filed Thursday, Soto provided non-public information to a lobbyist representing one of the bidders on the custodial services contract, a deal that was expected to “receive total payments exceeding approximately $1 billion,” according to federal investigators.
At the same time, Soto was working on the evaluation team determining who would eventually get the bid.
The FBI interviewed Soto about these dealings in December — specifically, if he had discussed private CPS conversations about the bid with the lobbyist. Soto allegedly said that person was trying to get information out of him, but added, “I don’t think I gave him anything.”
While Soto worked under Jackson, the custodial contract and alleged passing of non-public information occurred under her predecessor, Forrest Claypool, who resigned in 2017.
In her letter, Jackson said that it does not appear Soto influenced the awarding of this contract, and she claimed the lobbyist involved “has not represented any current or former CPS vendors.”
“While our collective focus is rightfully on other areas at this time, it’s important you hear this news directly from me,” she wrote. “The actions taken by Mr. Soto are not reflective of the world-class school district we have worked together to build and will not be tolerated.”