CHICAGO — Under fire for appearing to using official emails to help her lobbyist husband, City Clerk Anna Valencia opened up to WGN News Thursday.
Valencia is married to Reyahd Kazmi, a lobbyist who is a consultant for IGNITE — a company that provided technology for Chicago’s CityKey program. CityKey is a free government-issued ID available to all Chicagoans.
In a July 2019 text obtained by WGN News, Valencia’s husband appears to mix his business with her own highlighting a connection between IGNITE and an advisory council she serves on.
“Hey loves, if you’re legit going to do something with Accelerator on the West Side, you should have IGNITE help out,” she texted.
Valencia, who is an upcoming Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, does not believe it was a potential red flag.
“Absolutely not. My husband sent that text message – first, the text message shows he doesn’t even know what my office does. Second, in the text message I say we can discuss this later,” she said. “We went home, and I shut it down because anything – my husband like many spouses may give you unsolicited advice when you don’t want it. But if it came to work he knew it was clear line and I shut it down immediately. Period. Full stop.”
But there were more emails and texts.
In March of last year, Valencia texted Alderman Gilbert Villegas — who’d been pushing in the City Council a universal basic income program. Valencia mentions that maybe CityKey could be involved.
When asked why she was pushing CityKey, Valencia pushed back.
“Absolutely not. CityKey is my program. It’s a national standard that we created in 2018 under the Trump administration to make sure that marginalized communities had access to services,” Valencia said.
In another email, Valencia’s husband’s business partner uses the clerk to make introductions in New Orleans where IGNITE wanted a CityKey-type program. They won a contract.
Competitors complained the process was rigged. And now the New Orleans City Council president has subpoenaed various documents, including communications between Valencia, her husband and his partner.
“New Orleans, the mayor’s office reached out to my office one time to ask questions about the CityKey program,” Valencia said. “Look, I am intended to cooperate fully with anyone.”
During the summer of unrest in Chicago following George Floyd protests, Valencia sent a text to her chief of staff, saying she wishes she had “clout” to get Monterrey Security hired by the city. Monterrey is her husband’s client and Valencia’s single largest campaign contributor.
Valencia brushed it off as a joke and said she is her own woman.
“I have nothing to do with my husband’s business. Period,” she said. “The last few weeks have been really tough for my husband and I, tough conversations and really some growing pains. Looking back, I should have been more careful with my personal and professional emails.”
Ald. Silvana Tabares, who’s endorsed Alexi Giannoulias in the Secretary of State race, has asked the new City Inspector General to investigate Valencia. Ald. Davis Moore is also running in the race.