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City Club President Jay Doherty resigns, ‘distraction’ of federal investigation cited

FBI agents searched the former ComEd lobbyist’s City Club office in May as part of a broadening corruption investigation.

Jay D. Doherty, president of City Club of Chicago, speaks at Maggiano’s Banquet on July 16, 2018.
Jay Doherty has resigned as president of City Club of Chicago.
Sun-Times file photo

Facing federal scrutiny of his work as a lobbyist for ComEd in a sweeping corruption probe, City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty stepped down Friday from the helm of the century-old, clout-heavy civic group.

Doherty’s resignation comes seven months after FBI agents searched the Mag Mile headquarters of the City Club, reportedly looking for possible evidence about his role in clout hiring at the power utility, including some with ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“It’s become quite a distraction, and after 27 years leading the organization, he wanted to remove that,” said Ed Mazur, City Club board chairman. “The club hasn’t been a target for the authorities, but it’s been a distraction.”

“It’s disappointing to us because under Jay’s leadership, the club has grown in size and significance,” Mazur said. “We’re very disappointed that he feels it’s necessary, but we understand where he’s coming from.”

Doherty, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment. He quit lobbying for ComEd in early November, state records show.

It’s the latest blow for a civic group that has seen several speakers back out of engagements with the club’s leader under the federal microscope. Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an order barring most state officials from appearing at the City Club due to its “involvement in the ongoing federal investigation.”

Details have slowly emerged in recent months about the broadening corruption probe that has included raids of several southwest suburban village halls and the Springfield office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Sandoval chaired the state’s powerful Transportation Committee and announced last week he’ll give up his legislative seat in January.

Doherty had lobbied for ComEd in Springfield and Chicago for about a decade. Sandoval’s daughter, Angie, listed herself online as a senior account manager in government affairs at ComEd.

Exelon Utilities CEO Anne Pramaggiore abruptly retired in October as questions swirled around lobbyists for ComEd, which Pramaggiore previously ran. The utility has acknowledged receiving two grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding its lobbying activities in Illinois, where state regulations give ComEd a legal monopoly on power delivery in northern Illinois.

One subpoena asked for information about lobbying activities and the other, which the company said it received Oct. 4, was for records of communications with Sandoval and other individuals and entities Exelon did not disclose.

The City Club will hold a board meeting next week to plan its next steps for finding a new president.