Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he wouldn't have hired indicted former city Comptroller Amer Ahmad if he'd known the ex-aide was under federal investigation in Ohio, but he argued he couldn't be expected to have that information because officials from that state didn't tell him about the probe.
The public comments were the mayor's first since the Tribune reported Sunday that Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce received federal subpoenas in November 2010 asking about Ahmad's involvement in a contract given to a Boston bank when he was Ohio deputy treasurer. On Tuesday, Emanuel said Ahmad had "no value" as an employee if the U.S. attorney's office was investigating him.
"There's no value in hiring somebody that's under investigation, so the answer to that question is self-evident in the question," Emanuel said when asked what he would have done had he known about the subpoenas before he named Ahmad comptroller in April 2011.
Ahmad was indicted Aug. 15 on federal charges over an alleged kickback scam when he was Ohio deputy treasurer. The charges were unrelated to the bank contract, but records from that deal were subpoenaed by federal authorities.
Though the 2010 bank contract already was fodder for numerous Ohio newspaper reports and a campaign attack ad against Boyce before Ahmad was vetted to join the Emanuel administration, the mayor said the only way he could have known about the federal investigation was if Boyce or Ahmad had told him about it.
"Both Mr. Boyce and Amer had an obligation to be forthcoming with us in a way that they were not, which is quite clear," Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference.
The mayor did not respond Tuesday when asked if a better vetting process would have caught the fact that an investigation of Ahmad already was underway.
Boyce, now an Ohio lawmaker, endorsed Ahmad for the Chicago job.
Ahmad has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which allege that he gave Ohio state investment work to a former high school classmate who in turn funneled $400,000 to a landscaping company Ahmad part-owned and another $123,000 to lobbyist Mohammed Noure Alo, described by prosecutors as a "friend and business associate" of Ahmad.
The mayor addressed the Ahmad issue on the second day of classes for most Chicago Public Schools students. Emanuel said the cash-strapped city can afford to continue concentrating significant resources along Safe Passage routes to try to protect children from violence walking to and from schools. The continued success of Safe Passage will rely in part on thousands of volunteers organized through the city's Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program in addition to the hundreds of police, firefighters and other workers who have been an obvious presence along the routes this week, he said.