August 27, 2014
Amer Ahmad’s high-flying career seemed to be going from strength to strength when he quit his job as Chicago city comptroller three weeks ago with a hearty pat on the back from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The son of Pakistani immigrants graduated from Harvard and Columbia, and had recently opened up about how a pilgrimage to Mecca had deepened his Muslim faith, inspiring him to move from the highly-paid banking world into public service.
Now, just a day after he was indicted on kickback and money laundering charges relating to his previous government job in Ohio, the full depth of the challenge the 38-year-old faces to clear his name has emerged.
Both his high school pal Doug Hampton and his Chicago business partner Joe Chiavaroli appear to have turned against him, signing plea agreements that require them to cooperate with the federal probe of Ahmad’s alleged scam in return for lighter sentences.
Details of the deals came to light Friday as a group of aldermen called on Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate Ahmad’s two-year stint as a key member of Emanuel’s financial team.
Emanuel’s spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton has repeatedly stressed that Ahmad has not been accused of any wrongdoing in Chicago and that there’s no evidence his alleged misdeeds continued after he was hired by Emanuel in 2011,
But after Aldermen Bob Fioretti, Scott Waguespack and John Arena said Friday that the mayor’s original plan to order an internal audit of Ahmad’s work wasn’t “transparent” or “independent” enough, Hamilton issued a statement late Friday saying that Emanuel was getting on board.
The mayor has now asked both Ferguson and the city’s law department to “jointly look into Mr. Ahmad’s time as a city employee,” she said.
Ahmad was praised at the time of his departure last month by Emanuel for his “integral role in my efforts to reform government, strengthen the city’s finances, and professionalize our approach to fiscal management.”
Though his attorney Kelly Johnson said Friday that Ahmad plans to plead not guilty, the indictment suggests he may not have been the wisest choice for a job that included rooting out financial fraud.
Between 2009 and 2011, he allegedly used his authority in the Ohio treasurer’s office to send state business worth $3.2 million in commissions to his former classmate Hampton, 39, a securities broker from Canton, Ohio, in return for kickbacks from Hampton totalling $500,000.
Working with Chiavaroli, 33, he then concealed the kickbacks by passing them through a landscaping firm they both owned, it’s alleged.