July 28, 2014
Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to order an audit of the work of his former comptroller, Amer Ahmad, after learning Thursday of a federal indictment accusing Ahmad of money laundering, bribery and other public corruption charges related to his previous position as deputy treasurer in the state of Ohio.
The indictment alleges that Ahmad, 38, used his authority in the Ohio treasurer’s office to direct state business to Douglas E. Hampton, 39, a securities broker from Canton, Ohio, in return for payments from Hampton.
“We have no reason to believe and have no knowledge of any such wrongdoing during his tenure in Chicago,” Sarah Hamilton, communications director for the mayor, who’s on vacation, said in a statement. “But we will take any action that is needed — including conducting a review of Finance Department activities over the last two years — to ensure that Chicago taxpayers are protected.”
Ahmad and Joseph Chiavaroli, 33, of Chicago, allegedly concealed those payments from Hampton by passing them through the accounts of a landscaping business in which Ahmad and Chiavaroli held ownership interests. Hampton also allegedly funneled in excess of $123,000 to Mohammed Noure Alo, an attorney and lobbyist who is Ahmad’s close personal friend and business associate. As a result of the scheme, Hampton allegedly received about $3.2 million in commissions for 360 trades on behalf of the Ohio Treasurer’s office. Ahmad and his co-conspirators allegedly received in excess of $500,000 from Hampton.
Contacted Thursday evening, Ahmad texted a Chicago Sun-Times reporter a copy of a Market Watch story that stated he planned to plead not guilty Monday in federal court.
While working for Emanuel, Ahmad played a pivotal role in disbanding the Department of Revenue and folding it into the Department of Finance, which came under Ahmad’s control. He also dramatically reduced the amount of outstanding fines owed to the city by going after scofflaws. The move generated an additonal $70 million in 2012 alone.
Earlier this year, Ahmad served as the point man in Emanuel’s controversial decision to phase out Chicago’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care by 2017 while continuing that coverage for the oldest retirees.
The plan will free taxpayers from a $108.7 million-a-year burden. Thirty thousand retired city employees will be forced to switch to Obamacare.
Emanuel praised Ahmad’s work in a new release issued last month announcing his resignation, saying: “Amer has played an integral role in my efforts to reform government, strengthen the city’s finances, and professionalize our approach to fiscal management.”
Before joining Emanuel’s administration, Ahmad had worked as a corporate finance investment banker for Wasserstein Perella, the firm where Emanuel made his millions. He also worked at William Blair & Company and KeyCorp Bank.
Ahmad’s abrupt departure immediately followed an unprecedented triple drop in Chicago’s bond rating and preceded the unveiling of Chicago’s 2014 preliminary budget.
Ahmad said then that he was leaving the Emanuel administration to work in the private sector. City Hall sources said Thursday the federal investigation and impending indictment had nothing to do with Ahmad’s abrupt departure from City Hall.