Ex-CPS computer guru landed big county job despite feds’ investigation
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter January 13, 2014 6:56PM
Prasad Nettem resigned from his job as technology director for the Chicago Public Schools in August 2012. He landed a six-figure job in Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office in December 2012, overseeing parts of the county’s computer system, according to records and a statement released by Preckwinkle’s office. | Facebook photo
Updated: February 15, 2014 6:02AM
For months, the Chicago Public Schools inspector general and the FBI had zeroed in on a CPS employee for allegedly shaking down a subcontractor for a $2,000 bribe.
As the investigation heated up, the employee, Prasad Nettem, resigned after working for more than a decade for CPS.
The active investigation didn’t kill his career.
In fact, a few months later, Nettem landed on his feet, getting a $145,000-a-year job with Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s office, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Nettem, a former technology director for the school district, resigned from his job at CPS in August 2012 after the feds took “an overt investigative step and interviewed witnesses with a contractual relationship with CPS,” according to a CPS report issued this month and a source with knowledge of the investigation.
Several months after he resigned from the school district, Nettem landed the six-figure job in Preckwinkle’s office in December 2012, overseeing parts of the county’s computer system, according to records and a statement released by Preckwinkle’s office.
Preckwinkle said she had no idea about the investigation involving Nettem and did not know him personally.
The county fired him last month, after Preckwinkle’s staff became aware of the CPS investigation, her office said. He has not been charged with a crime.
Nettem first drew the attention of the CPS inspector general, James Sullivan, in 2008. His office conducted a lengthy investigation that later involved the feds.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment because Nettem has been not charged with a crime. Nettem did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Nettem is not named in the most recent CPS inspector general’s report, but his job description matched that of the employee noted in the report who was under investigation for allegedly taking a $2,000 bribe from a CPS subcontractor, and a source familiar with the investigation confirmed it’s Nettem.
After collecting the initial $2,000 bribe, the report alleges Nettem went back to the subcontractor and demanded more money. When he was rebuffed, Nettem retaliated by refusing to use the subcontractor for additional work, according to the CPS report. That subcontractor no longer does work for CPS, the source said.
Preckwinkle spokeswoman Kristen Mack said the president’s office had no idea Nettem was under investigation by the FBI but became aware of the CPS investigation on Dec. 6, 2013 — the same day Nettem was fired by the county. Mack said Nettem was hired because of his background managing complex projects, and he successfully passed state and FBI background checks.
In a statement, Preckwinkle said: “We take all inspector general reports seriously. Out of an abundance of caution, upon learning of CPS’ investigation, I acted swiftly and decisively and terminated the individual in question.”
Preckwinkle said her administration had no evidence that Nettem had done anything wrong while he worked for the county but was reviewing his work there.
Mack said Preckwinkle did not know Nettem personally or professionally before he landed the county job. Mack also said Preckwinkle’s administration is not worried about their vetting process for potential employees.
In the CPS report, the inspector general also raised questions about the way the school district regulates contractors. For example, the subcontractor accused of bribing Nettem appears to have done little work beyond taking a cut of the business and farming out the work.
“The subcontractor who paid a bribe to the director appears to have been little more than a middleman who marked up costs without adding any value,” the report states.