- Rich Hein/Sun-Times
- Mayor Rahm’s finance team (from left): Rahm, Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott, Budget Director Alexandra Holt, and Chief Technology Officer John Tolva
Having said that, I’ve got to show some love for the investigative reporters at the Tribune, who’ve been doing some outstanding work over the last few months.
First, there was Michael Hawthorne’s story about the proposed Englewood rail yard—which probably forced the mayor to back off on subsidizing that deal with TIF funds.
I guess the mayor’s concluded that if he’s going to pollute the people of Englewood, he shouldn’t spend our tax dollars doing it.
And now comes Thursday’s exposé by Bill Ruthhart, whose investigations are probably the real reason Mayor Emanuel reluctantly reappointed Joe Ferguson as inspector general.
I’ll try to explain, though this stuff’s as convoluted as a TIF deal . . .
As Ruthhart lays it out, there’s a potential conflict of interest between Lois Scott, the mayor’s chief financial officer, and Amer Ahmad, the mayor’s former city comptroller.
As far as I can tell, the mayor has put Scott in charge of cooking up new ways to sell off public assets.
Not sure why the mayor would think it’s a good idea to sell public assets in the wake of the parking meter fiasco.
Probably has something to do with campaign contributions, if I know my mayor.
In any event, Scott’s apparently well suited for this task because she used to be president of Scott Balice Strategies, a consulting company that specializes in, among other things, privatization deals.
You can read what our own Mick Dumke has to say about that here.
Before Ahmad came to Chicago, he was Ohio’s deputy treasurer. In his position as such, Scott’s company appealed to him in an effort to get a slice or two out of that state’s lucrative bond-business pie.
Apparently, the Scott Balice employee in charge of courting Ahmad was Julia Harris, who went on to serve on Mayor-elect Emanuel’s transition team.
According to Ruthhart, Scott’s firm eventually got “$165,000 in fees as the financial adviser on four Ohio state highway bond issues.”
In 2010, Ahmad’s boss was voted out of office. So Ahmad was out of work. Not for long.
Thanks to Ruthhart, who got access to e-mails from the Ohio treasurer’s office, we now know (1) that Ohio’s way ahead of Illinois when it comes to enforcing open records laws and (2) that shortly after Ahmad lost his job, Harris e-mailed him, asking him to send her his resumé.
When she got it, Harris e-mailed: “Omg. You are SO impressive.”
And Ahmad e-mailed. “LOL. Impressive, maybe. Unemployed, definitely.”
To which Harris responded: “But NOT for long!”
Which prompted Ahmad to e-mail: “Omg, we are, like, BFF! Wait, BRB. POS!”
Just kidding! I think that last line’s from an old Gossip Girls episode.
You can find Ruthhart’s whole story—e-mails included—right here.
Anyway, Mayor-elect Emanuel wound up hiring Ahmad as comptroller. He made the announcement at the same 2011 press conference where he unveiled his new finance team, Scott included, declaring, “It is time to chart a new course.”
Meet the new course, same as the old course!
Ahmad held that job until July 23, when he suddenly stepped down—just ahead of news out of Ohio that he’d been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in an alleged kickback scheme from his days in the Ohio treasurer’s office.
Now, Ruthhart—and columnist John Kass—are all over the story. Meaning, Mayor Emanuel’s got to figure out a way to explain why, out of all the financial wizards in the universe he could have hired as his comptroller, he picked the guy from Ohio who was under federal investigation.
And what, if anything, Lois Scott had to do with it.
Good luck with the explanation, Mr. Mayor. This may prove harder to explain than your decision to close 50 schools. The last I looked that had evolved into: Dr. King made me do it!
That brings me back to Ferguson’s reappointment. Announced, rather grudgingly, by Mayor Emanuel just a few days before Ruthhart’s Thursday exposé.
I think we can safely say that the mayor did not—repeat, did not—reappoint Ferguson because he suddenly decided to listen to the City Council’s progressive caucus, as the progressive aldermen opined.
I love you anyway, progressives.
Or that he truly came to realize Chicago needs a vigilant watchdog, as opposed to a lapdog, as Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association, proclaimed.
I love you, too, Andy, but I think I’ll be teasing you about that one for years to come.
In fact, I think we can all agree that reappointing Ferguson had less to do with Mayor Emanuel’s urge to clean up city government than with saving his political hide.
Like maybe now would not be a good time to draw attention to the administration’s, oh, ethical issues by firing Ferguson, one of the few guys around City Hall whose ethics seem impeccable.
When it comes to Mayor Emanuel, I think it’s safe to assume that if he occasionally does the right thing, it’s probably for the wrong reasons.