By Bill Ruthhart and Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune reporters
7:09 AM CDT, August 30, 2013
Months after recommending Mayor Rahm Emanuel hire former comptroller Amer Ahmad, onetime Democratic Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce used close ties with his now-indicted ex-employee to lobby for city business here.
Boyce sought underwriting work for city bond issues, a job that required him to meet with Ahmad and Chief Financial Officer Lois Scott, according to the investment banking company Boyce worked for at the time. That firm, Rice Financial Products, collected fees on the same two bond deals that Scott's financial firm, Scott Balice Strategies, also profited from in 2011 as she prepared to become Emanuel's top financial aide.
Scott made an "initial recommendation" to hire Ahmad at City Hall, said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton.
Boyce's financial work in Chicago came after he, too, offered a full backing of Ahmad, saying his former deputy treasurer in Ohio would "be a tremendous addition to the Emanuel administration." When he made the recommendation, Boyce knew Ahmad was under federal investigation in Ohio, the Tribune has reported.
Emanuel has insisted he did not know Ahmad, who abruptly resigned last month, had federal heat until "I read it in the papers" after he was indicted this month on charges of a kickback scheme involving Ohio state investment work.
The ties among Boyce, Ahmad and Scott are the latest details in the unfolding scandal involving Emanuel's former city comptroller.
After Boyce lost his November 2010 election bid, he went to work in February 2011 for Rice Financial. The New York-based municipal bond company made $552,170 from four fees related to city bonds issued in 2011 and 2012, according to city finance department records and the mayor's office.
Boyce was working for Rice Financial when at least two of the transactions occurred, according to city records and Rice President Cristal Baron.
The New York firm was paid $325,375 in fees connected to general revenue bonds at O'Hare International Airport on May 5, 2011, city records show. That payment came about two weeks after Emanuel announced he had hired Ahmad, but 11 days before the mayor took office. Chicago-based Scott Balice Strategies also collected $149,000 in fees from the same O'Hare bonds. Scott sold her interest in that firm to join the Emanuel administration.
Boyce, now an Ohio state lawmaker, worked at Rice Financial during the O'Hare deal, but Baron said "it was unlikely" Boyce had discussions with city officials about those bonds since they were brought to market just a few months after he joined the firm.
Boyce registered as a lobbyist with the city in January 2012, according to records from the Chicago Board of Ethics. He began covering Rice's business in Chicago after the firm developed a vacancy here, said Antoinette Wilson, a Boyce campaign spokeswoman.
In a statement, Boyce said, "As an employee of Rice Financial, I did not do any transactions with the city of Chicago." But Baron, Rice Financial's president, said Boyce was involved in discussions with the city that led to the firm collecting $82,227 in fees from September 2012 wastewater project bonds.
"As one of the investment bankers participating on our Chicago coverage team, I expect that he did have contact with city officials prior to the 2012 transaction," Baron said in an email.
Hamilton, Emanuel's spokeswoman, said Rice Financial also received $144,568 in fees tied to a water bond issued by the city in May 2012, the same month Boyce resigned from the firm to join the Ohio Legislature.
As part of his work, Boyce also had contact with Ahmad and Scott, Baron said. Hamilton confirmed that Scott met with Boyce as part of regular meetings she had with underwriting firms.
Boyce told the Dayton Daily News, which first reported his Chicago lobbying work Thursday, that he had lunch with Ahmad a couple of times while working for Rice Financial.
Federal authorities say Ahmad gave Ohio state investment work to a former high school classmate in exchange for $400,000 being funneled to a landscaping company he part-owned and another $123,000 to Mohammed Noure Alo, described by prosecutors as a "friend and associate" of Ahmad's.
The Tribune has reported that in November 2010 Boyce became aware that the FBI was investigating a contract he awarded to a Boston bank, according to a memo from the treasurer's office. Boyce's office also had received a "very comprehensive" federal subpoena, which among other things, sought the cellphone records of Boyce and Ahmad, records showed.
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