Consultant accused of bilking Vallas campaign out of $680K says allegations are ‘shameful and unfounded’
CHICAGO - A political consultant who was sued last week for allegedly defrauding Paul Vallas’ mayoral campaign out of hundreds of thousands of dollars threatened Monday to file a defamation lawsuit against the failed candidate he once counted as a close associate.
"In the end, I will be vindicated and Vallas’ claims will be seen for what they are — unfounded," said Chimaobi Enyia.
Vallas says Chimaobi Enyia collected $680,000 from the campaign to coordinate get-out-the-vote efforts in Black neighborhoods. But in his lawsuit filed last week, Vallas said the work was "fabricated" and Enyia was unable to provide any documentation showing what he had done.
Enyia slammed the lawsuit as "shameful and unfounded," adding that he intends to "vigorously defend my character and my integrity."
In a text message to the Sun-Times, Vallas declined to comment beyond saying, "The lawsuit speaks for itself."
Enyia, the brother of failed mayoral campaign Amara Enyia, was reportedly in the running to serve as Vallas’ chief of staff if the former public schools chief won the April 4 runoff election. He had described Vallas as a "trusted friend" who had "desperately" asked for his assistance in building relationships in the city’s African American community.
"Vallas asked me for my help, I provided my help, I billed for my help, the bills for my help were approved, and I have been paid for my help," Enyia said, noting that Vallas’ campaign manager Brian Towne and campaign finance chairman Peter Jeon signed off on the large payments.
"I fulfilled completely my obligations to the campaign," he added. "Now after I have provided my help, Vallas wants to claw back my compensation. That is absolutely unfair."
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In four payments between March 20 and April 3, Enyia allegedly collected $680,000 that he claimed was for consulting, putting up Vallas signs in Black neighborhoods and removing others that were vandalized and tied the candidate to former President Donald Trump.
In a bid to collect the cash, the suit claims Enyia repeatedly pressured Jeon to cut checks, going as far as warning that the purported campaign workers he was paying were going to jump ship and start working for Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson.
Towne isn’t accused of any wrongdoing, but the suit says he repeatedly directed Jeon to pay up.
Veteran Democratic strategist Tom Bowen said the level of fraudulent campaign spending alleged in Vallas’ lawsuit is unprecedented. Bowen said it underscores how desperate Vallas was to make inroads into the Black community and how little oversight his campaign had over the avalanche of contributions that came pouring in from the business community after his first-place finish in the Feb. 28 election.
"If he set $700,000 on fire with a very atypical campaign vendor to try to win votes in the Black community like that, that is possibly the stupidest thing anyone in Chicago politics has ever done," said Bowen, who served as a senior adviser to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign and as political director for former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012.
Vallas claims that when he discovered the payments after losing the runoff, Enyia "repeatedly stated that he could not and would not provide any documents" and he refused to return the money, according to the suit.
Enyia allegedly claimed he had effectively been given a "blank check" for $700,000 to do campaign work in Black communities that Vallas wound up losing, including a $20,000 payment for approved consulting work.
The first sign that something was amiss came when Vallas’ campaign filed its latest financial disclosure last week showing $480,000 of the $500,000 in payments to Enyia’s company, Ikoro LLC, were being "disputed." Another contested payment for $200,000 came on April 3 after that reporting period had ended, according to the suit.
The suit accuses Enyia of fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract and calls for restitution of the money, plus an award of prejudgment interest and the imposition of punitive damages, among other relief.
But on Monday, Enyia threatened to sue Vallas for defamation if he reiterates the lawsuit’s allegations in public statements.
"In the end, the voters were right," he said, "Paul Vallas did not deserve to be the mayor of the city of Chicago."