Furious Emanuel gives impassioned defense of city’s financial officer
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter October 23, 2013 4:12PM
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced his finance team at the Standard Club Wednesday April 20, 2011. (from left) Emanuel, Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott and Budget Director Alexandra Holt. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: November 25, 2013 1:21PM
A furious Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday likened media attacks on his Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott to the “drive by hits” that drove him out of the “crap town” that is Washington D.C.
“I left Washington because I think it’s a crap town that deals with peoples’ reputations and character as drive-by hits…I’ve seen friends in the Clinton administration who did nothing wrong have both their legal bills run up and their character defamed where you can never get your reputation back,” he said.
“I happen to think it’s honorable to go into public service. People don’t have to do it. I asked Lois to do it. She doesn’t have a private sector business anymore…Nobody has anything that Lois has done wrong. She has ably served the people professionally and, just by inference because she knew somebody?...It’s ridiculous.”
Scott has been under fire for recommending Emanuel’s now-indicted former City Comptroller Amer Ahmad and for having business dealings with him in Ohio.
The financial services firm that Scott co-founded and sold before joining the Emanuel administration got bond business from the Ohio treasurer’s office during Ahmad’s tenure as its deputy.
Ohio’s former treasurer, Ahmad’s ex-boss, got Chicago bond business after Scott recommended that Emanuel hire Ahmad.
On Wednesday, Scott refused to answer questions about her relationship with Ahmad after joining other key members of Emanuel’s cabinet in the VIP box during the mayor’s annual budget address.
She was notably absent at a meeting of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board to explain a $6.9 billion 2014 budget that she helped to craft.
That left Emanuel to defend Scott. And he came loaded for bear.
“It’s the wrong way to treat people. If you’ve got something, talk about it. People have reputations and character. I saw it in Washington repeatedly. Saw people have their legal bills run up for no reason at all. Saw their professional lives ruined who did nothing,” the mayor said.
“You have a profession…in journalism. You have a responsibility. She hasn’t done anything wrong. Not even accused of anything wrong and having her reputation sullied. Where does she go back and get her reputation restored?”
Ahmad’s stunning July indictment in an alleged $500,000 kickback and money-laundering scheme in Ohio has lifted the veil on the selection of firms that ride the gravy train of city bond business.
It’s long been a highly-politicized process that has allowed Chicago mayors to reward their friends and campaign contributors with hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual fees for work as bond counsel, co-counsel and financial advisers.
The City Council signs off on the pinstripe patronage list. But the selections are made by the mayor’s office in general and Scott in particular.
Emanuel made millions in the back-scratching world of investment banking after leaving the Clinton administration. He responded to Ahmad’s indictment by flatly denying that he should have known about his former comptroller’s alleged wrongdoing as deputy treasurer of Ohio.
The mayor promised an exhaustive investigation — with Inspector General Joe Ferguson and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton overseeing the work of two outside attorneys — to make certain Chicago taxpayers and pension funds were not similarly victimized.
On Wednesday, the mayor said the preliminary review has turned up nothing, but he has asked for a “deeper dive,” which is still under way.
“They’ll issue a report, and we’ll see what it says. If there’s a problem — we’ll deal with it. If it doesn’t, we now know,” he said.