A dubious hire

A dubious hire

Hiring a political reformer in Chicago is harder than people might think.

Would you believe that Illinois doesn't have enough corrupt public officials, that it imports them from other states?

That wasn't the intention, but that was the result of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's search for a so-called political reformer to work as a comptroller for the city of Chicago.

Emanuel hired Amer Ahmad from Ohio, where he worked as a deputy state treasurer and chief financial officer. Ahmad submitted a surprise resignation from his Chicago post three weeks ago. Last week, it became clear why.

Ahmad was indicted on federal charges of money-laundering, mail fraud, conspiracy, bribery and making false statements in connection with a $500,000 kickback scheme involving state investments in Ohio.

An embarrassed Emanuel now is requesting an internal investigation of Ahmad's actions while he served as the city's comptroller. An Emanuel spokesman said the mayor was unaware of any problems with Ahmad's activities in Ohio until the indictments were announced.

Emanuel was effusive in his praise of Ahmad's performance when the city announced his resignation, saying that he had played "an integral role in my efforts to reform (city) government."

What's striking about this turn of events is that at the time Ahmad joined the city in April 2011 he already was the subject of reports raising questions about ties between Ahmad and Mohammed Alo, a close Ahmad friend who won state investment business after he was hired as a lobbyist by a Boston-based bank.

Although he is from Ohio, Ahmad's alleged criminality bears all the characteristic of old-fashioned Illinois corruption. He allegedly steered state investment business to a broker who was a high-school friend. Investment trades generated $3.2 million in commissions, and roughly $400,000 was kicked back in the form of phony loans to a business co-owned by Ahmad. Another $123,000 was allegedly funneled by the broker to Ahmad's friend, Alo.

Two of those charged in the case, the broker and an Ahmad associate who was a co-owner of the business that received the kickbacks, already have pleaded guilty.

Ahmad has pleaded not guilty to the charge. Perhaps if he's acquitted in Ohio, Ahmad can return to Illinois and continue his efforts to reform government here.

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