A clout-heavy attorney sanctioned by the newly-energized Chicago Board of Ethics has landed a $159,141-a-year job as the CTA’s vice-president of legislative affairs.
Gerald Alder’s resume includes stints as an assistant to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and current Mayor Rahm Emanuel; project coordinator for the CTA; intern for the Department of Buildings and chief of staff under former City Treasurer Stephanie Neely.
After Neely abruptly resigned and Emanuel appointed Kurt Summers to replace her, Alder joined the law and lobbying firm run by Victor Reyes, the former Daley political operative who also ran the Hispanic Democratic Organization at the center of the city hiring scandal.
Now, Alder has landed on his feet—again — at a government agency that has long served as a refuge for the well-connected.
“Alder brings to the CTA a wealth of knowledge and experience in both the public and private sectors, including years of legislative work and a previous stint at the CTA,” CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry wrote in an email.
“He will play a crucial role in helping the CTA promote the important role transit plays in Chicago.”
Last month, Alder was one of dozens of lobbyists sanctioned by the Board of Ethics for violating the city’s lobbying laws by filing their 2017 statements of registration late.
Mayberry said the oversight occurred after Alder left his law firm on Nov. 30 without notifying the Board of Ethics or striking his name from the filing system.
“Once Mr. Alder was made aware of the oversight, he immediately notified the city’s Ethics Department that he was no longer employed by the firm and terminated his lobbyist registration,” he said.
Alder could not be reached for comment.
He had plenty of big-name company on that list. It includes: newly-retired State. Rep. Eddie Acevedo; veteran lobbyists William Filan and Thom Serafin; former Chicago Park District Superintendent David Doig; County Commissioner John Fritchey; zoning attorney Jack George; public relations maven Marilyn Katz and Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1.
The list also includes President Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe.
The Board of Ethics has slapped Plouffe with a $90,000 fine — the highest in its history — for contacting Emanuel through the mayor’s private email accounts on behalf of ride-hailing giant Uber without registering as a lobbyist.
The fine represented $1,000 for every one of the 90 days that Plouffe failed to register as a lobbyist after his November 2015 email to Emanuel on the mayor’s personal account.
In 2003, Reyes resigned his $25,000-a-year seat on the CTA board so he could keep his more lucrative lobbying job under new state ethics rules that forced him to choose between the two.
The law prohibited lobbyists or their spouses from serving on most state-appointed boards and commissions.
On Thursday, Reyes described Alder as a “bit of a trouble-shooter” who is likely to be a better fit at the CTA than he was at the law firm of Reyes Kurson.
“He understands Springfield. He understands the City Council. He understands how to work with elected officials and the community interests they come across. He’s had years of experience interacting with communities and elected officials,” Reyes said.
“Gerry is more of a government guy. In my world, you’ve got to go land clients. Business development is probably not his strong suit. Government is really where his heart is. It’s a great move for the CTA. They get a guy with many years of experience. He’s half-Mexican, half Jewish. So, he knows a lot of the players in the community and interacted with a lot of the elected officials that the CTA needs to be working with.”
It’s not the first time that the CTA has provided a soft landing for an ousted or departing city official or those seeking to fatten their government pensions.
In 2002, the brother of one of Daley’s closest friends in politics quit his $115,260-a-year job as Fleet Management commissioner to accept a $95,000-a-year CTA job created just for him.
In January 2010, Daley dumped the chief of staff responsible for the parking meter fiasco that struck a raw nerve with Chicago motorists.
But instead of firing Paul Volpe, Daley demoted his chief of staff to the job of budget director for the CTA. Volpe was subsequently promoted to the loftier title of vice president for budget and capital finance with an annual salary of $163,777.
The trend continued when Karen Seimetz, the city’s former first assistant corporation counsel and chief labor negotiator was appointed by the CTA Board to serve as the mass transit agency’s $170,000-a-year general counsel.
In 2011, the chief of staff to CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson resigned to become Emanuel’s chief of staff.
Theresa Mintle’s $175,000-a-year job was promptly filled by Joan Coogan, director of Daley’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Coogan recently returned to City Hall—as Emanuel’s $180,000-a-year first deputy chief of staff.