By Hal Dardick
Chicago Tribune reporter
12:54 AM CDT, August 22, 2013
City taxpayers shelled out more than $8,000 to former Chicago Comptroller Amer Ahmad for unused vacation days after he resigned just weeks before he was indicted in an alleged kickback scheme related to his previous government job in Ohio.
The city of Chicago paid Ahmad his $165,000-a-year salary through Aug. 1, his last day at work, and also made an $8,250 payment to him for 13 unused vacation days, said Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Ahmad was "entitled" to the payment under city personnel policy and rules, she said.
Ahmad tendered his resignation to Emanuel on July 23, more than 10 months after the former comptroller was questioned by FBI agents in the probe involving his tenure as Ohio deputy treasurer. A week ago, Ahmad and a close friend were indicted. They pleaded not guilty Monday, while two others have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the alleged scheme involving Ohio state investment work that prosecutors say led to kickbacks to Ahmad and others.
Emanuel said this week that he knew nothing of the federal probe when Ahmad resigned and said his former aide "let the mayor's office and the mayor down" by not telling him he had been questioned by the FBI.
When Emanuel hired Ahmad in May 2011, the administration was aware of Ohio news accounts detailing how the now-indicted close friend, immigration lawyer Mohammed Noure Alo, was hired as a lobbyist for a Boston-based bank two days before the bank got a contract with the Ohio treasurer's office.
The charges against Ahmad are unrelated to that deal, and he made it through the nascent Emanuel administration's vetting process after being quizzed on the phone by two former prosecutors helping with the transition. Lois Scott, the city's chief financial officer, was among those who recommended him, Tribune columnist John Kass reported Wednesday.
During his two years as comptroller, Ahmad had extensive authority to pay city wages and contract payments, collect revenue, influence policy and select insurance vendors. He also served on the city's four pension boards that manage tens of billions of dollars in assets.
A preliminary review of Ahmad's work turned up no city involvement with individuals or businesses named in the indictment, but the city plans to review the broad sweep of Ahmad's work in Chicago. It has hired two former prosecutors to conduct a forensic audit.
Emanuel's top City Hall attorney, Stephen Patton, with input from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, selected the auditors. Ferguson will have a say on how the probe is conducted, and retains the right to conduct his own investigation if he determines that's warranted.
But Ferguson's term expires at the end of November, and the audit is expected to take "several months," according to a statement from the mayor's office. Emanuel could reappoint Ferguson, but the mayor has not committed to that.
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