CHICAGO Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped a veteran hedge fund and asset management professional to serve as his comptroller.
Daniel Widawsky will fill a position vacated last summer by Amer Ahmad, who now faces corruption charges stemming from his earlier tenure in the Ohio Treasurer’s office.
Widawsky is expected to join Emanuel’s cabinet on January 31 after the City Council votes on his appointment.
“With more than 20 years’ experience as a finance, tax, and legal professional, he brings with him considerable knowledge and expertise from both the private and public sectors to serve Chicago taxpayers,” Emanuel said in a statement Friday.
“Dan is committed to ensuring the efficient management of city finances, and he will serve a key role in continuing my administration’s efforts to strengthen the city’s fiscal health, address our long-term obligations, and invest in Chicago’s future,” Emanuel said.
Widawsky comes from Citadel LLC where he was a managing director and a partner and senior member of the firm’s financial team. He joined the company in 2007 and has overseen some of the firm’s largest and most successful transactions and initiatives, according to the city statement. Widawsky also previously served as a senior executive at GE, and prior to that, was a vice president at NBC.
“My efforts will be focused on managing the City’s resources efficiently and effectively on behalf of Chicago residents and taxpayers,” Widawsky said in a statement. Citadel’s founder Kenneth Griffin and his wife Anne Dias have contributed more than $200,000 to Emanuel’s campaign war chest, according to published reports.
The appointment comes as the city is attempting to put behind it the taint associated with former comptroller Ahmad, tapped for the post by Emanuel shortly after his successful 2011 mayoral bid.
Ahmad abruptly resigned in July telling the administration he wanted to return to the private sector. A few weeks later a federal grand jury indicted Ahmad, accusing him of orchestrating a kickback scheme involving state of Ohio investment business. He has pleaded not guilty.
The indictment raised questions over the city’s vetting process and the prior business relationship between Ahmad and Chicago’s chief financial officer, Lois Scott, who had worked on an Ohio Treasury bond sale in her prior role as financial advisor.
It also brought scrutiny to the city’s bond underwriting selection process because of ties between Ahmad and former Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, who went on to become a public finance banker.
The comptroller serves on the city’s pension funds and the office has in the past had a say on city debt management although the Emanuel administration stressed that those duties and the selection of bond underwriting teams are managed solely by Scott and her aides.
Emanuel ordered a forensic audit of Ahmad’s tenure and hired Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and Grant Thornton to conduct the review. The 47-page report released last week concluded Ahmad did not engage in any wrongdoing that adversely impacted the city.
“We found no indication that Ahmad abused his influence as comptroller or defrauded the city or its taxpayers including by engaging in the type of wrongdoing Ahmad is alleged to have committed while he was employed by the state of Ohio,” the report reads.
The review team interviewed Scott, former comptroller Steve Lux, acting comptroller Andy Sheils, and Ahmad as part of the probe. Both Scott and Ahmad in their interviews said he did not attempt to influence Scott’s underwriting appointments to benefit his former boss, Kevin Boyce, and the report said it found no evidence to suggest otherwise.
Emanuel has previously defended the city’s vetting of Ahmad which included a review by former prosecutors in private practice.
The indictment alleges that Ahmad used his influence as Ohio deputy state treasurer to steer investment business to a firm with which he had close personal ties and which then funneled cash back to Ahmad and several alleged co-conspirators through “loans” and “fees.”
The alleged schemes occurred between early 2009 and early 2011. Ahmad is charged with conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud, money laundering, money laundering conspiracy, and false statements.