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Inspector general seizes computers from Chicago city treasurer's office

Investigation into city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin widens
Investigation into city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin widens 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Investigators with the Chicago Inspector General's office have seized computers and documents from City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin's office as part of a possible misconduct investigation.

The inspector general took the computers as it launched an investigation into the treasurer after a letter from two former employees became public, accusing the treasurer of ethics and misconduct violations.

As CBS 2 Political Reporter Chris Tye reported Tuesday, there are big questions in the growing investigation. Did the city's top money manager pressure employees to do personal errands for her? Did she pressure banks the city does business with to give favorable loans to her family?

Conyears-Ervin won the election for city treasurer five years ago, and had her name stenciled on the doors of the Chicago City Treasurer's office.

The office is one whose computers, CBS 2 has learned, were seized in recent days as the investigation into the treasurer's behavior widens.

"My hope is that we all, as public servants, continue to earn the trust of the people who send us here," Mayor Brandon Johnson said last week regarding the matter.

Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune published a letter written by a Chicago attorney on behalf of two of the treasurer's former employees – alleging that Conyears-Ervin engaged in widespread ethics violations.

It was Mayor Johnson's administration - at the urging of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul - that released the letter.

In the letter, the former employees said when they spoke out about their concerns, Conyears-Ervin fired them.

The December 2020 letter was sent to the city's top lawyer and the city's ethics officer. In it, the terminated employees accused Conyears-Ervin of consistently misusing "…City money, City employees and City resources to benefit her private interests…."

Examples cited in the letter include hiring an ex-Chicago Police officer as assistant city treasurer - but actually using him as security – and hiring an administrative assistant and then using her to run errands and a grocery shop on the clock.

The two employees later personally settled with the city.

"Something more than smoke there, because the city has had to settle," said Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and University of Illinois Chicago political science professor. "The issue is whether or not there has been criminal political corruption."

Simpson says the more troubling whistleblower allegations that the treasurer pressured BMO Harris Bank, which does business with the city, to partake in a personal financial matter.

"The Inspector General refers findings to either the State's Attorney or to U.S. Attorney if there is reasonable belief that a crime has been committed," Simpson said, "We do not know whether there is a crime committed in the Treasurer's office

In a statement Monday, a spokesman for Conyears-Ervin said she "is proud to run an office that places the ethical stewardship of taxpayer dollars at the center of everything it does," and that the "allegations in question misrepresent the culture and work of both the Treasurer and the many hard-working members of her team."

CBS 2 reached out to the Inspector General's office for details on their investigation. They were not able to share anything.

CBS 2 also asked Conyears-Ervin for an interview Tuesday, but that request was declined.  

The treasurer has been considering a bid to challenge longtime U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) for his congressional seat next year but reportedly postponed a formal campaign kickoff event in the wake of the ethics allegations.

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