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De Blasio Donations Tied to Two Contractors Eyed by Investigators: Records

By James Fanelli | January 30, 2017 7:49am
 The Department of Investigation has opened a probe into Husam Ahmad (left) and his two engineering firms, HAKS and SIMCO. Ahmad was a bundler for Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign, and HAKS employees gave a total of $39,300 to the campaign.
The Department of Investigation has opened a probe into Husam Ahmad (left) and his two engineering firms, HAKS and SIMCO. Ahmad was a bundler for Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign, and HAKS employees gave a total of $39,300 to the campaign.
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Linkedin/Husam Ahmad

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — City investigators are looking into $45,000 in donations that workers from two related construction firms made to Mayor Bill de Blasio's 2013 campaign, city records show.

DNAinfo New York first reported in October that the Department of Investigation opened a probe into de Blasio fundraiser Husam Ahmad and his construction companies, HAKS and SIMCO Engineering.

DNAinfo reported at the time that both HAKS and SIMCO — which each have city contracts worth tens of millions of dollars — said in disclosures to the Mayor's Office of Contract Services that DOI investigators executed search warrants on their offices on Aug. 17.

Neither the firms nor the DOI, however, would tell DNAinfo what the probe was about. 

But in a recent disclosure to the city, HAKS said the search warrant sought information on campaign donations.

"It referred to an investigation into political contributions as well as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status of another engineering company with common ownership interest," HAKS said in the disclosure.

The company with the disadvantaged business enterprise status is SIMCO, which Ahmad partly owns. The government grants the status to minority and economically disadvantaged firms to help them obtain contracts and to increase diversity on municipal projects.

Ahmad, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of HAKS, personally bundled $6,400 in contributions from HAKS employees to de Blasio's 2013 mayoral run, campaign finance records show.

HAKS employees donated an additional $32,900 that was not bundled by Ahmad to de Blasio's 2013 campaign and transition team. SIMCO employees gave $5,800 in donations to de Blasio's 2013 campaign, records show.

Ahmad did not donate directly to de Blasio — principals of firms that do business with the city can only give a maximum of $400 to a city candidate per election cycle. But Ahmad's wife, Uzma, has given a total of $13,450 to de Blasio's 2013 and 2017 campaigns.

In June 2014, de Blasio appointed Ahmad to the board of advisors of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that solicits donations to promote city causes. Records show that HAKS donated between $20,000 and $59,000 to the Mayor's Fund in 2015.

The mayor also appointed Ahmad to his Workforce Development Board, which consists of leaders from the private sector, public agencies and unions who advise the city on its policies about job seekers, employers and adult learners.

While HAKS does not have the disadvantaged business enterprise designation, SIMCO does.

To obtain the status, federal rules require that the business owner be a member of a socially or economically disadvantaged group, including women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

The owner must have a 51 percent or higher stake in the company, and his or her personal net worth cannot exceed $1.32 million, according to the rules. The business also must not be tied to another firm that compromises its independence and control.

SIMCO recently said in a disclosure to the city that Ahmad owns 45 percent of the company. Muhammad Siddiqui, SIMCO's president, owns the other 55-percent stake.

Both HAKS and SIMCO did not respond to requests for comment.

However, in its recent disclosure to the city, HAKS said, "Please be assured that HAKS is committed to cooperating with the investigation and it is confident that it will not result in any finding that HAKS engaged in any misconduct."

SIMCO said in a recent disclosure that "nothing in the search warrant referred to any of the business practices of SIMCO on any government projects or indicated that the work that SIMCO was doing on these projects was anything but in accordance with professional industry standards."

Ahmad has praised de Blasio's push to increase the number of city contractors who are minorities or women. The city's Economic Development Corporation quoted him in its March 25, 2016, press release touting new initiatives for minority- and women-owned firms.

“I am extremely thrilled with the growth of MWBEs businesses under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and looking forward to additional assistance provided moving forward,” Ahmad said.