Updated: 5:52 p.m.
The embattled head of the City Club of Chicago resigned Friday amid a federal criminal investigation into clout hiring at utility giant Commonwealth Edison.
Until his resignation Friday, Jay Doherty had served 27 years as president of the City Club, a non-profit public affairs speaking forum that regularly hosts speeches for high-powered politicians and public officials.
In his resignation letter, Doherty did not directly address the broad criminal probe into ComEd.
“After a great deal of personal reflection in recent weeks, I have come to a difficult decision,” Doherty wrote. “In order for the City Club of Chicago to focus on its important civic mission without distraction, I must, at the present time, step away from my Club responsibilities.”
Doherty was also a long-time lobbyist for ComEd.
WBEZ was the first to report that federal investigators raided the City Club’s Michigan Avenue offices in May. Agents are investigating allegations that Commonwealth Edison hired multiple politically connected employees and consultants - some with ties to powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan - in exchange for favorable government actions, including electricity rate increases.
Agents investigating those hires are also probing the role played by Doherty, and whether he served as a “pass through” for payments to people who did little or no work. WBEZ also first reported that ComEd has disclosed paying Doherty $3.1 million — far more than what Doherty has previously revealed.
Doherty’s resignation on Friday comes just days after WBEZ reported that Raymond Nice, a longtime campaign operative for Madigan, also listed being a lobbyist for ComEd at Cook County from 2015 until July of this year.
The job paid as much as $60,000 a year on top of his annual pension of more than $70,000, records show.
Earlier this year, Nice disclosed that his work involved talking to county officials about ComEd’s business operations “when requested by Jay Doherty.” But Nice didn’t report any lobbying activity to the county during his four years as a lobbyist for ComEd, records show.
Nice’s job ended on July 1 – weeks after FBI agents raided the nonprofit City Club’s offices in the Wrigley Building in mid-May as part of a broad public corruption investigation into ComEd. That same day, agents also raided the homes of at least three Madigan allies. A City Club source on Friday told WBEZ that it was “devastating” to the institution that Nice listed the City Club’s phone number on his lobbyist disclosure forms.“At this point it’s dying on the vine,” said the source, who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Doherty has not been charged with wrongdoing.
“Had this not happened, Jay would still be our president,” said Chris Robling, the City Club’s long-time treasurer, referring to revelations about Doherty’s role in the sprawling federal investigation.In accepting Doherty’s resignation, City Club chairman Edward Mazur wrote that he’s “grateful” for Doherty’s “vision and leadership.” “Jay has given his all to the City Club in his 27 years as president, firmly establishing it as a vital, vibrant institution in the civic life of Chicago.” In his statement, Mazur did not acknowledge the FBI raids on the City Club’s offices, or Doherty’s role as a ComEd lobbyist.The City Club has had trouble booking public speakers since WBEZ first reported that it was under federal scrutiny. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has asked state officials not to speak at City Club events.
Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold. Investigative reporter Dan Mihalopoulos and state politics reporter Dave McKinney contributed.