Eniya claimed that she didn't become aware of any issues until after the campaign ended and blamed the situation on Gray and Ferrell assigning staffers hours "despite lacking the budget on hand to pay for them." | Wikipedia

A year after Amara Enyia lost the first round of the Chicago mayoral election on Feb. 26, she is still no closer to paying back 24 campaign employees she allegedly owes money to. Enyia said that she’s still waiting for the labor grievance that is still making its way through the Illinois Department of Labor to play out.

On July 30, 2019, a group of 24 former staffers filed a labor grievance against her campaign, alleging that they were owed $56,825 of unpaid wages, overtime pay, minimum wage violations and unreimbursed expenses. At the time, Eniya said that she was trying her best to raise the money to pay the employees what they were owed.

But since then, her campaign committee’s finances have been at a standstill. According to the last few quarterly reports, no money has been raised and none of the money that was already there has been spent. In a statement provided to Austin Weekly News, Eniya claimed that the labor department was still trying to sort out how much money she owes.

The Illinois Department of Labor didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.

In their complaint, the campaign workers accused Enyia, campaign manager Joshua Gray, field director Marcus Ferrell, operations director Pilar Audain-Reed and campaign treasurer Deanna Grant of “failure to disperse wages and overtime to 24 junior level staffers, the failure to reimburse for promised expenses,” giving them paychecks that were bounced for being “fictitious and insufficient,” and not telling the staff the campaign wouldn’t be able to pay them.

They also allege that, although the campaign originally promised to pay them by March 15, Enyia and her senior staff instead “continued to engage in a pattern of deflection, minimization and neglect.”

According to state election records, on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28, the Enyia campaign paid a total of $4,686.25 to four employees, but no one else had been paid as of March 8. And between Jan. 1 and March 31, paychecks for several separate employees were sent to the same address: 728 S. Oakley Ave., floor two. According to Chicago Tonight, the address belonged to Enyia’s sister.

According to the campaign’s most recent quarterly report, which was submitted on March 2, as of Dec. 31, 2019, it had $5,296.22.

The campaign workers didn’t respond to e-mail requests for comment. Attorney Stephen Yokich, who provided legal representation for them, did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

In a recent statement, Eniya claimed that she didn’t become aware of any issues until after the campaign ended and blamed the situation on Gray and Ferrell assigning staffers hours “despite lacking the budget on hand to pay for them.” She also claimed that she hasn’t made any payment, because the Illinois Department of Labor is still investigating the grievances.

“The situation is complicated because of the investigation by the Illinois Department of Labor against the campaign manager and field manager that could hold them personally liable for the funds owed,” Eniya stated. “It also has to sort out exactly how much is owed. The discrepancy between what they budgeted for the final phase of the campaign and the hours the staff reportedly worked are miles apart.”

In her statement, Eniya insisted that she’s committed to abiding by whatever decision the labor department makes “so we can get this situation resolved as soon as possible.”

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...