November 26, 2014
After an exhaustive forensic audit, consultants have concluded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s indicted former City Comptroller Amer Ahmad did not defraud Chicago taxpayers like he is accused of doing in Ohio.
The 47-page report was jointly prepared by the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and the Grant Thornton accounting firm.
“After collecting and analyzing 2.8 million records and conducting 31 separate interviews, we found no evidence that Ahmad abused his influence as comptroller or defrauded the city or its taxpayers, including by engaging in the type of wrongdoing Ahmad is alleged to have conducted when he was employed by the state of Ohio,” the report said.
A rising star in the Emanuel administration, Ahmad abruptly resigned in July, without having another job lined up, saying it was time to return to the private sector. A few weeks later, he was indicted in an alleged $500,000 kickback and money laundering scheme in Ohio.
An embarrassed Emanuel flatly denied that he should have known about Ahmad’s alleged wrongdoing as deputy treasurer of Ohio and promised an exhaustive investigation — with Inspector General Joe Ferguson and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton overseeing the forensic audit.
Before sounding the all-clear in Chicago, Drinker Biddle and Grant Thornton conducted a painstaking investigation that began by determining that none of the individuals accused of participating in the Ohio scheme were doing business with or receiving payments from the city or its four employee pension funds.
Two databases of public records were used to identify individuals or entities associated with Ahmad and his three Ohio co-defendants. Again, no red flags were raised.
Next, consultants poured through Ahmad’s email account, his co-workers’ emails and scores of other electronic documents, shared drives and hard copies. Wire payment data was examined to identify “red flags.” None were raised.
Thirteen current and former senior level city employees, including Ahmad, were interviewed. None “observed or was aware of any facts that indicated wrongdoing” by Ahmad.
Drinker Biddle and Grant Thornton also examined Ahmad’s pivotal role as a pension fund trustee and found “no indication that Ahmad abused the influence of his position as trustee or caused financial harm” to the four funds.
The report did, however, note that Ahmad “initiated discussion” with Mesirow Financial about working for the firm, even as he knew Mesirow did business with the city’s four pension funds.
Ahmad recused himself from one vote involving a Mesirow subsidiary. But he voted on five other pension fund deals with Mesirow that took place after he began speaking with the firm about potentially working there.
It was beyond the scope of the audit, the lawyers concluded, to determine whether Ahmad broke city rules or other laws by taking part in those Mesirow-related votes.
Mesirow officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos, Chris Fusco