For 17 years, Fareed Ahmed collected $3,000 a month from the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
The longtime political consultant with an unusual past was the authority’s lobbyist.
What exactly he did in that role is unclear.
Ahmed, 73, is not registered as a lobbyist with the city, state, or federal government, and the parking agency offered few details about what he might have done for the $639,000 he was paid.
Marty O’Rourke, spokesman for the parking agency, said Ahmed was first contracted in February 2000 to “provide government and community relations as well as attend community and PPA meetings.” Asked for examples of meetings he attended, events he organized or what his lobbying produced, O’Rourke did not provide any.
Ahmed’s monthly invoices are only a little more illuminating. In some instances, he listed meetings with elected officials, but rarely stated what issues were discussed. He often reported making telephone calls without identifying to whom or why. Other invoices are just plain sloppy, with repeated misspellings of the names of public officials. He once noted a meeting with “Representative Jim Representative.”
For years, in billing his payments, Ahmed reported meeting only with Vincent Fenerty, then the parking authority’s executive director.
Ahmed’s contract survived a purge in 2008 when the parking authority, a longtime patronage haven, terminated three political consulting deals and halved the monthly fee it paid its top Harrisburg lobbyist.
The payments to Ahmed continued until January of this year, stopping after Scott Petri, a former state representative from Bucks County, took over as head of the PPA. O’Rourke said Ahmed chose to end the consulting relationship. O’Rourke offered no reason for Ahmed’s decision. Petri declined to be interviewed.
Ahmed, who lives in Elkins Park, declined to comment for this article. Tariq El-Shabazz, a well-known criminal defense attorney, responded on his behalf in emails and telephone calls but said he would not answer questions about Ahmed’s work as a lobbyist. He declined to comment further after he was also asked about Ahmed’s past, including his criminal history.
“We fail to see the relevance of any allegations, stories, or myths from 45, 43, 38, or even 25 years ago to any story you are seeking to write about Mr. Ahmed’s consulting contract with the PPA,” El-Shabazz wrote in an email, referring to Ahmed as a “73-year-old positive member of this community.”
Ahmed’s path to the PPA was circuitous. Born Eugene Hearn, Ahmed was labeled by federal prosecutors in the 1970s as a leader of Philadelphia’s so-called Black Mafia, an organized crime group that operated in the African American community.
In 1974, he was convicted in city courts of aggravated assault and battery, carrying a concealed weapon and related offenses. The following year, he was convicted in federal court of dealing heroin and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in announcing his conviction, identified him as a lieutenant of Black Mafia leader Eugene “Bo” Baynes.
By the 1980s, Ahmed had moved into politics and become known for his success in turning out the African American vote. He volunteered for W. Wilson Goode Sr.’s successful mayoral campaign in 1983 and later worked on Robert Williams Jr.’s unsuccessful campaign for district attorney. His criminal history became fodder for attacks in those campaigns.
Ahmed defended himself in a 1983 newspaper interview, saying he had served five years in prison but hadn’t had any subsequent contact with police. He said he was focused on community activism in Southwest Philadelphia.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who hired Ahmed for his mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns, called him “the best” when it came to turning out black voters. He said he could raise campaign funds as well.
“I know he had some trouble when he was a young guy, but he was as honest as the day was long,” Rendell said in a recent interview.
In reference to campaign funds paid in cash to election day workers, Rendell added: “I would and did entrust Fareed with hundreds of thousands in street money.”
Goode was effusive when asked about Ahmed.
“He has been, as far as I know, an outstanding citizen and done a lot of charitable work in the city,” Goode said. “He is an entrepreneur in many different areas and he’s done well at it. I’m very pleased to see his growth and development.”
Goode’s faith in Ahmed was evidenced when he turned to him in 1985 to serve as an emissary to the MOVE group during the police standoff that ended in the bombing of the group’s West Philadelphia compound.
Since 2000, Ahmed has contributed at least $193,000 in campaign funds to both Democratic and Republican politicians and committees, including Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty and the 31st Ward Republican Committee, headed by Fenerty.
At the PPA, during the early years of his lobbying contract, Ahmed, in his invoices, reported frequent meetings with City Council members, state representatives and other officials.
In 2012, 2013, 2015, and most of 2016, however, Ahmed’s invoices show him meeting almost exclusively with Fenerty, who would be forced out of the agency in 2016 following allegations that he sexually harassed two employees. After Fenerty left, Ahmed reported eight meetings with Council President Darrell Clarke between September 2016 and November 2017.
Asked last week about the Ahmed meetings, Clarke spokeswoman Jane Roh initially said Clarke had not met with Ahmed in “years.” Presented with dates that Ahmed said he met with Clarke, Roh said Clarke’s calendar showed only a January 2017 meeting. The topic of the meeting in his calendar: Eid, the Muslim holiday.
“He doesn’t remember the meeting on his calendar or if he had any other meetings with him in 2017,” Roh said of Clarke.
Ahmed stated in his invoices that he met with Sheriff Jewell Williams seven times in 2017. Williams’ spokesman Barbara Grant initially declined to comment on whether Williams recalled meeting with Ahmed last year. Presented with the dates Ahmed said he met with Williams, Grant said in an email: “The sheriff and Mr. Ahmed have been friends for more than 30 years so it would not be unusual for them to meet. The sheriff confirms he met with Mr. Ahmed about PPA and other topics over the course of last year.”
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson’s spokeswoman confirmed that he met with Ahmed regarding PPA legislation introduced by Councilman David Oh last year.
Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart announced last week that her office would audit the PPA.
Presented with Ahmed’s invoices, Rhynhart said she couldn’t comment on his PPA lobbying services specifically, but that the contract shows why another audit is needed to investigate the agency’s staffing levels, salaries and contract expenses.
“There are too many stories, too much noise not to do a performance audit,” she said.
Rendell, who as governor in 2008 ordered an audit of the PPA, said he unaware Ahmed was working for the agency.
“I don’t know what they paid him for,” he said, “but I believe they got their money’s worth.”