Fourteen highly paid administrators and teachers for the Chicago Public Schools were marked with a “do not hire” designation after the school’s Office of Inspector General released a report that they fraudulently benefitted from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Through a public records request, Chalkboard has acquired the names of 12 employees, many of whom made over $100,000 a year and were terminated or resigned for fraudulently receiving loans between $15,000 and $20,000. Employees often reported a loss of self-employment income despite receiving salaries from CPS.
CPS denied Chalkboard two of the names, citing “adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases.”
Here is what is known about the CPS employees who received a “do not hire” designation as a result of the PPP fraud investigation:
1. Crystal Cooper
As reported first by the Chicago Sun-Times, Cooper left her job as head of school operations because of the inspector general report. Despite receiving a salary of over $220,000 from the district, Cooper “intentionally inflated” her “self-employment income on the PPP application to qualify for a larger PPP loan.”
She was the sixth-highest paid CPS employee in June of 2022.
She received a loan of over $15,000 that was later completely forgiven. According to FederalPay.org, a nongovernmental informational portal built by federal employees, Cooper received the loan for a sole proprietorship in the insurance agencies and brokerages industry.
2. Tiffany Sanders
Her position earned her a salary of $170,000 in 2021 according to CPS’ payroll roster. She was the 67th-highest paid employee that year.
There are three loans for Tiffany Sanders listed on FederalPay.org, but it’s not clear if all of them went to the Sanders formerly employed by CPS.
The OIG’s investigation found “a former regional administrator fraudulently obtained a PPP loan of more than $20,000 by falsely stating that they had approximately $100,000 in annual income from their business, when, in fact, neither the business nor the income existed.”
“The evidence showed that the administrator spent much of these funds on expensive luxury items, as well as a trip to Las Vegas,” the report said about a former regional administrator with a salary of more than $165,000 a year.
3. Bernadette Moore
Moore was a principal at Harriet Tubman Elementary School, according to a page on its website. She is no longer listed as an administrator.
According to public records, Moore received a salary of $139,750 as of June this year. She received a $20,833 PPP loan for a sole proprietorship in the food service contracting industry, according to FederalPay.org.
4. Heather Minyard
Minyard was formerly an assistant principal at Fernwood Elementary School and received $117,090 as of June this year, according to the school district’s records. Minyard received a $20,832 loan for commercial screen printing according to FederalPay.org.
According to public documents and the school website, Minyard is now listed as an assistant principal at Serena Hills Elementary in Flossmoor Elementary School District 161 in south Cook County. She currently makes $85,000 a year, according to Flossmoor’s board documents.
5. Sean Smith
Smith was employed at Edward Tilden Community Career Academy’s website as an assistant principal. According to public pay documents, Smith made $120,551 in 2022.
He’s no longer listed on Tilden’s staff page.
FederalPay.org lists two loans for Smith: One for $21,089 in March, 2021 and another for $20,833 in April, 2021. The status of the April, 2021 loan is “charged off,” according to the website.
6. Nichelle Nemo
Nemo worked as a “Senior Windows Engineer” for CPS in information and technology services and received a salary of $109,824 as of June 2023, according to public records. No other employee in the report is listed as working with technology.
The inspector general investigation found that “a CPS tech employee obtained a fraudulent PPP loan of more than $20,000 by making false statements on their loan application, including the false claim that they earned over $125,000 in self-employment income.”
“At the time of the investigation, the tech employee was earning nearly $110,000 per year at CPS,” the OIG report found.
According to FederalPay.org, Nemo was given a PPP loan as an independent contractor in the “full-service” restaurant industry.
“In their interview with the OIG, the tech employee initially said that they had no outside employment and did not own any business,” the OIG report said. “They later told the OIG that they did some work for a family business, but that they were not paid for the work.”
“The evidence indicated that the tech employee knowingly engaged in PPP fraud and that their claims that they believed they were eligible for a PPP loan were merely pretext,” the report found.
7. Carmia Fuqua
Fuqua is listed in internal documents as an assistant principal at Gage Park High School. She received a salary of $122,802 in 2022.
Fuqua is listed by FederalPay.org as receiving two PPP loans for a total of over $40,000 in the industry of “other clothing stores.”
8. Tamisha Bufford
According to a June CPS document, Bufford is listed as a case manager for Dunbar Vocational Career Academy with an annual salary of $111,257.
FederalPay.org lists Bufford as the recipient of a $20,085 loan for “exam preparation and tutoring.”
Bufford is currently listed as the director of student services at Country Club Hills School District 160, in Country Club Hills, Illinois.
9. Christina Bradley
A 2020 handbook shows Bradley was an assistant principal at Arthur Ashe Elementary School. Bradley received a salary of $117,273, according to CPS documents. A LinkedIn profile that shares Bradley’s name and lists CPS as a former employer says Bradley is working as an instructional tutor at Hoover-Schrum Memorial School District 157 in Calumet City, Illinois.
She received over $20,000 in a PPP loan for a sole proprietorship in the beauty salon industry, according to FederalPay.org.
10. Tosca Griffith
Griffith was listed as a director of grant operations and fiscal monitoring for CPS’ Budget and Management Office in 2022 and had a salary of $125,000. She worked in the Budget and Management Office. On LinkedIn, a profile for Tosca Griffith lists a job title for CPS as a charter schools funded programs manager.
According to FederalPay.org, Griffith received $20,000 in a PPP loan.
“A CPS administrator fraudulently obtained a forgivable PPP loan of $20,000 by falsely stating that they had earned nearly $100,000 in net income as a sole proprietor in 2019,” the OIG report said. “This misconduct is particularly egregious in that the employee’s role at CPS involved monitoring CPS’s use of public funds.”
11. Latasha Clark
According to the district’s employee roster, Clark taught special education at Marie Sklodowska Curie Metropolitan High School in 2022 and received $103,732 in base pay. A LinkedIn profile for Latasha Clark says she worked for CPS for over 13 years.
On FederalPay.org, Clark is listed as receiving a $20,833 PPP loan for an electric power generation company.
Only one teacher is mentioned in the watchdog report, with the others described as administrators or employees.
“The OIG determined that the teacher’s claims were inconsistent and not credible,” the inspector general found. “Accordingly, the evidence indicated that they knowingly made false statements on their loan application to fraudulently obtain a PPP loan.”
“In addition to their PPP fraud, the OIG also found evidence that the teacher had engaged in other unrelated misconduct,” the report found.
12. Patrick Pender
Pender made a salary of $76,789 in 2023 as a technology coordinator for Martha M. Ruggles School, according to CPS’ employee roster.
“A school support employee obtained a fraudulent PPP loan of more than $20,000 by falsely claiming that they had earned over $100,000 as a barber in 2019,” the OIG report found. “At the time of the investigation, the employee’s annual salary was nearly $76,000.”
According to FederalPay.org, Pender applied for a $20,833 loan for a business in the barber shop industry.
“In an interview with the OIG, the school support employee admitted that they did not work as a barber and that their only non-CPS income came from a small tutoring business which earned far less than $100,000 in 2019,” the OIG report found.
“In addition to the PPP fraud, the OIG also found evidence that the school support employee had engaged in other unrelated misconduct,” the report found.