Edward M. Burke
|Edward M. Burke|
|Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke at the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the near southwest-side Archer Heights neighborhood on November 24, 2009|
|City of Chicago Alderman|
December 29, 1943 |
Edward M. "Ed" Burke (born December 29, 1943) is alderman of the 14th Ward of the City of Chicago. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1969, and represents part of the city's Southwest Side. Burke has been called Chicago's "most powerful alderman" by the Chicago Sun-Times. Burke was named one of the "100 Most Powerful Chicagoans" by Chicago Magazine, describing him as "[o]ne of the last of the old-school Chicago Machine pols". Burke is the longest serving alderman in Chicago history. Burke and his staff were the subjects of federal and local investigations, and members of his staff were the targets of indictments and convictions involving payroll and contracting irregularities.
Early life 
Burke is a lifelong resident of Chicago. His father, Joseph P. Burke, was a Cook County Sheriff's policeman who worked as a court bailiff. Joseph Burke served as committeeman from the 14th ward (a local Democratic party post), and was elected Alderman from the 14th ward in November 1953.
Ed Burke attended Visitation Grammar School in Visitation Parish on Chicago's south side and is a 1961 graduate of Quigley Preparatory Seminary. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from DePaul University in 1965, then worked for three years as a Chicago police officer, assigned to the state's attorney's office. Meanwhile, he studied law at DePaul University College of Law. In 1968 Burke received a Juris Doctor degree, was admitted to the Illinois Bar, and married his wife, Anne Marie.
While in law school, Burke received a draft deferment as a full-time student. After his marriage and the death of his father, he applied for and was granted a hardship deferment (3-A), as the sole support of his wife, mother, and two younger brothers. In June 1969, the Illinois Selective Service board of appeals reclassified him 1-A ("available for unrestricted military service"). At the same time, he was accepted into a Chicago-based United States Army Reserve unit, the 363rd civil affairs group, as a private. Political rivals expressed concern that Burke had received special consideration that allowed him to join the Reserve unit ahead of many others who had been waiting to join the unit, but an Army investigation found no evidence of manipulation in his favor.
Political career 
Burke succeeded his father in local politics, first as Democratic Committeeman and then as Alderman from the 14th ward.
Democratic committeeman 
After the elder Burke died in office of cancer on May 11, 1968, Edward Burke took leave from his job as policeman to replace his father as Democratic committeeman for the 14th ward. Though not a precinct captain, Burke won election to his father's committeeman seat in a secret vote of 65 precinct captains, defeating a veteran precinct captain by just 3½ votes. At 24, Burke was the youngest person in Chicago's history to become a ward committeeman, a position he has held ever since.
Chicago Alderman 
The 14th Ward Democrats slated the young Burke as the Democratic candidate in a special election called for March 11, 1969, to fill vacancies in City Council including the 14th ward. Burke faced six opponents, but won a clear majority with 11,204 votes, while the next highest candidate received 1460 votes. In the City Council committee re-organization following the 1971 aldermanic elections, the Council approved the appointment of Burke, who was at the time a police sergeant on leave, as chairman of the Police and Fire Committee. In 1972 and 1973, Burke joined Alderman Edward Vrdolyak in a dissident caucus of alderman demanding a greater voice in city affairs from Mayor Richard J. Daley and Finance committee chairman Alderman Thomas Keane. The dissident aldermen were labelled the "Young Turks," and their caucus was called the "coffee rebellion" after the beverage served at their morning meetings.
Former city commissioner of consumer affairs Jane Byrne announced her challenge to Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic on April 24, 1978, describing herself as an alternative to a "cabal of evil men [that] has fastened onto the government of the City of Chicago," and, when pressed to name them, singled out Burke and Vrdolyak.
In a debate in City Council Burke threatened to punch Alderman Leon Despres in the nose if Despres weren't so old. Burke was named "Best Dressed Alderman" in a 1981 review of aldermen by the Chicago Tribune's City Hall reporters.
After Burke's first campaign for alderman, he has been unopposed in most of his re-election campaigns. In 2007, Burke faced his first opponent since 1971, a school teacher who had never run for office. A Burke supporter unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the opponent's ballot application, but the case was tied up in court for most of the campaign, and Burke went on to win with nearly 90 percent of the vote.
Leader of opposition to Mayor Washington 
Burke was, along with Alderman Edward Vrdolyak, a leader of the "Vrdolyak 29", a majority faction of mostly white aldermen who controlled City Council and were committed to frustrating the agenda of the newly-elected Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, during Washington's first term, 1983–1986, a period referred to as Council Wars. Vrdolyak, a Burke mentor, was chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Vrdolyak forged the alliance by expanding the number of Council committees to 29 and negotiating 29 committee chairmanship assignments. On May 2, 1983, during the first Council meeting of the Washington administration, the first roll call vote was on the committee reorganization, and Vrdolyak continued as President pro tempore of the Council (chairman of City Council meetings when the Mayor is not present) and Burke moved to the chairmanship of the powerful Finance Committee.
Burke assumed the role of vocal point man for anti-Washington attacks and was considered second to Vrdolyak in the anti-Washington caucus. Burke sued in Cook County Circuit Court to remove Washington from office, contending that Washington forfeited his office by being three weeks late in filing a routine financial disclosure by the deadline set by state law. The suit was denied. Burke asked Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan to seek the ouster of Washington. The request was denied. Richard M. Daley, Cook County States Attorney at the time, pleaded for unity, saying, "This personal hatred has gone too far."
In Chicago's municipal elections in the Spring of 1987, Vrdolyak challenged Washington as the Solidarity Party candidate rather than seeking re-election as alderman. Burke attempted to maintain the majority opposition alliance, but Washington's re-election and Washington's support of reform-minded aldermanic candidates ended the alliance, and Washington supporter Alderman Timothy C. Evans replaced Burke as Chairman of Finance. Ousted from the spacious Finance Committee staff offices, Burke never used the relatively modest office allocated to him in City Hall and instead worked out of his private law office two blocks away. In the days following the death of Mayor Washington in office, Burke supported the Council's selection of Alderman Eugene Sawyer over Evans to serve as Mayor, but Burke was the alderman who least often voted in support of the legislative agenda of Sawyer, Chicago's second black Mayor. After Richard M. Daley was elected Mayor in the Spring of 1989, Daley nominated Burke as Finance chairman, a position he has held ever since.
The chairmanship of the City Council's Committee on Finance has been described as "the No. 2 spot in city government." Almost all matters requiring city expenditures, many city contracts, and all city tax matters must be recommended by the Finance committee before they can be considered by the full Council. As Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Burke controlled a 63-member staff and $2.2-million annual budget, dwarfing the resources of other council committees. In the City's self-managed workman's compensation program, the Finance Committee staff determines, and the Finance Committee approves, payment amounts in disability claims. As Chairman of the Committee on Finance, Burke controls a $1.3M per year taxpayer-funded payroll account available to aldermen with no scrutiny. In 2008, Burke spent the largest portion of the account, $70,164, more than any other alderman by more than $26,000. Burke is also a member of the City Council's committees on Aviation; Budget and Government Operation; Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities; and Zoning. Additionally, Burke is a member of the Chicago Planning Commission and Economic Development Commission. He controls three well-funded political action committees, the "Friends of Edward M Burke," the "14th Ward Regular Democratic Organization," and "The Burnham Committee." In July 2009, Burke's campaign funds totaled $3.7 million, more than any other alderman's and one of the largest in Illinois. Illinois judges are elected in partisan elections, and a significant aspect of Burke's influence derives from his role as the longtime chairman of the judicial slating subcommittee of the Cook County Democratic Party.
Burke has been a principal draftsman of the map of ward boundaries. When Burke started his political career, the 14th Ward that he represents was centered in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, more than a mile and a half east of where it is now. The 14th Ward is a gerrymandered area whose shape has been described as "like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle". With each new ward map, drawn every 10 years, its boundaries have been moved farther west. As of 2010, its boundaries extended from 39th Street south to 59th and from Western Avenue west to Cicero Avenue, including most of the Brighton Park, Gage Park and Archer Heights neighborhoods. The ethnic composition of the ward has changed dramatically during Burke's tenure in office. As of 1968, residents were predominantly of Polish or other Eastern European extraction, but by 2010 it had a large Hispanic (primarily Mexican) population.
Burke maintains a taxpayer-salaried staff to ghost-write speeches, resolutions, and works of non-fiction for him, including Thomas J. O'Gorman, carried on Burke's City Council staff payroll as a "legislative aide" since 1995. In October 2006, Burke and O'Gorman published End of Watch, a book which details the lives and tragedies of police officers who died in the line of duty. Also, Burke and R. Craig Sautter published the book Inside the Wigwam: Chicago Presidential Conventions 1860–1996. Under Burke's direction, the Finance Committee staff compiled historical exhibits in City Hall and drafts honorary resolutions for special visitors to Chicago or recently deceased prominent Americans and Chicagoans. Burke was named "Best Orator at City Hall" in the Chicago Reader's "Best of Chicago 2010" special issue.
Ghost payrolling on Burke's staff 
The staffing practices of Burke's Finance Committee came under scrutiny in local and federal investigations of ghost-payrolling abuses in local government and resulted in several indictments and convictions.
Marie D'Amico, the daughter of Alderman Anthony Laurino of the 39th ward of Chicago, pleaded guilty to collected tens of thousands of dollars in no-work jobs between 1981 and 1994 from three separate public agencies: the Cook County clerk and sheriff and the City Council's Finance Committee while Burke was chairman. Burke denied knowing D'Amico rarely showed up for work. Burke said the Finance Committee's chief investigator, who had died in 1994, "apparently connived" with D'Amico to carry D'Amico on the payroll, prompting the Chicago Sun-Times editorial, "Dead Men Can't Wear Stripes." D'Amico was the first indictment in what expanded into a federal investigation of ghost payrolling which came to be known as Operation Haunted Hall. In January, 1995, the Operation Haunted Hall grand jury subpoenaed the personnel records of three City Council Committees: Finance, Budget and Traffic.
Burke's long-time aldermanic secretary worked full-time out of the downtown office of Burke's law firm, even though her salary was paid by the city. The secretary was subpoenaed by the Operation Haunted Hall grand jury. Alderman Joe Moore asked, "why is she over at the law firm? It looks bad. It raises the appearance that she's possibly doing not only city work but law firm work." An attorney for the Finance Committee said, "I don't have to explain why she's at the law firm. (Burke) doesn't have to explain. It makes no difference where she sits...She's a city employee and she does city work." The secretary was shifted to City Hall.
Burke's law firm had employed Joseph A. Martinez, a real estate tax appeal attorney, as a full-time partner since about 1977, when in 1981 Mayor Jane Byrne appointed Martinez to replace the resigning 31st Ward Alderman Chester Kuta. Martinez served out the remainder of the term but declined to run for re-election in 1983 when the ward committeeman endorsed a challenger. Between 1985 and 1992, Martinez received $53,143 in wages and $37,352 in benefits for doing little or no work for City Council committees. Martinez was a target of Operation Haunted Hall. In April 1995, after the federal subpoena of Council committee personnel records, Martinez repaid $91,000, sending the money to City Hall in three installments. Martinez was charged and pleaded guilty on January 23, 1997. In his plea agreement, Martinez admitted he was a ghost payroller on City Council committees, starting with the Finance Committee in 1987, while Burke was chairman, and said that he was employed in each committee job "in order to receive health insurance." Martinez's attorney said Burke got Martinez the jobs because Burke's law firm did not provided health insurance. In a written statement, Burke said, "A memorandum filed in Mr. Martinez's case (has) asserted that I participated in a scheme that gave rise to these charges. This allegation is untrue. I have done nothing wrong in connection with this matter." Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko wrote "you would think that a bright fellow such as Burke - whose father was a ward boss and an alderman - would know better..."
The most significant scandal of Mayor Richard M. Daley's first eight years in office was the circumstances surrounding the resignation of his floor leader in City Council, 11th ward Alderman Patrick Huels, chairman of the Council's Transportation Committee. Security firm SDI Security, Inc. was owned by Huels, Huels' wife, and Huels' brother, and Burke was corporate secretary from shortly after it was formed in 1989 until 1994. The President of SDI was Michael A. Pedicone, an outside lawyer for the Finance Committee. A federal grand jury subpoenaed campaign finance records and ethics disclosure filings involving Burke and Huels, and financial records involving Pedicone. The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Illinois Supreme Court, the state agency that regulates the conduct of attorneys in Illinois, investigated Burke and subpoenaed all records on SDI from the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. As part of a rare probe of local politicians by Cook County prosecutors, grand jury subpoenas were issued in late December, 1997 for records on expenditures to SDI made by Burke's Finance Committee and Huels' Transportation Committee. In a memo to his aldermanic colleagues, Burke wrote "He [Pedicone] was not a ghost payroller," and that Pedicone had been paid about $490,000 over eight years for handling more than 450 disability-claim cases.
At the sentencing hearing for a Chicago attorney, a federal agent testified that in an interview the attorney told the agent that his job with Burke's Finance Committee only required four hours of work a week, although he was paid a full-time salary. On January 8, 1998 federal prosecutors in Operation Haunted Hall indicted another Chicago attorney for collecting $9,223 in wages and benefits despite doing little or no work for Burke's Finance Committee in 1991 and 1992. Burke hired criminal defense attorney Anton Valukas, a former U.S. attorney and a partner in the law firm Jenner and Block, to represent him. Burke was not charged with any wrongdoing in the probe. By 1999 Operation Haunted Hall resulted in 34 guilty pleas, one conviction after trial, and one acquittal.
On December 4, 2008, Illinois State Representative Robert S. Molaro resigned from the state legislature after serving about 15 years in the Illinois House and Illinois Senate, making him eligible to receive a public pension of about $64,000 based on the standard of 85% of his roughly $75,000 salary on his last day of service. Burke hired the newly-retired Molaro for $12,000 for one month to write a 19-page white paper about Chicago's perennially under-funded pensions. When Molaro officially retired on January 1, 2009, his pensionable salary was annualized as $144,000, nearly doubling his pension. On August 16, 2012 Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill which limited the state's liability when former state legislators bolster their state pensions with short-term jobs with cities, counties and other local governments.
Exoneration of Mrs. O'Leary and her cow 
In October, 1997, as Huels resigned in the SDI scandal, and amid calls for Burke's resignation, Burke sponsored a resolution exonerating Kate O'Leary and her cow Daisy of culpability for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The resolution cited research blaming the fire on an O'Leary neighbor, Daniel "Peg Leg" Sullivan. Burke argued in favor of passage of the resolution,
In 1871, journalists, eager to sensationalize the events of the Great Fire, were quick to find in Mrs. Kate O'Leary an easy scapegoat for the calamitous inferno. As a working-class immigrant and a woman, Kate O'Leary was an easy target for those publications who always found it comfortable to vilify Irish Catholics who had not yet assimilated into the dominant American middle-class culture.
The resolution was unanimously recommended by the City Council's Police and Fire Committee on October 6, 1997 and passed unanimously by the full City Council on October 28, 1997. Other Burke legislative initiatives include protecting non-smokers from second hand smoke, mandating pet-spaying, and regulating fatty restaurant food.
Jerry Springer hearing 
In April 1999 activist Roman Catholic priest Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina parish in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood, wrote a letter to Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hilliard complaining of the glorification of violence on The Jerry Springer Show, the nation's most popular television show, which was produced in Chicago. Burke showed about ten minutes of clips from the show at the April 28, 1999 meeting of the City Council's Police and Fire Committee and convinced aldermen to invite, under threat of subpoena, show host Jerry Springer to testify under oath as to whether the violence on the show was genuine or scripted. If scripted, Burke proposed to force the show to obtain a city entertainment license, and, if genuine, Burke proposed that the off-duty Chicago policemen providing security at the show arrest fighting guests on the set.
The hearing attracted more than 21 television news crews from around the country, including Court TV, MSNBC, Fox News, a film crew from The Jerry Springer Show, dozens of print reporters, and about 75 of Springer's cheering fans. None of the aldermen actually asked Springer if the violence was staged until more than an hour into the three-hour hearing. Burke led the questioning of Springer, and Springer spent most of his time sparring with Burke. Springer easily handled the inquiry.
Security detail 
Burke is the only Chicago alderman who has Chicago police officers assigned to him as bodyguards. In 1986, Mayor Harold Washington's acting Chicago police commissioner Fred Rice tried to reduce the number of Burke's bodyguards to two from four, on the basis that the manpower was no longer necessary. Burke sued the city, arguing that the move was political retaliation. The court sided with Burke. Rice removed nearly all the aldermanic bodyguards, but was blocked by court orders from taking away the Vrdolyak and Burke contingents. For a nine-month period in 2005, the Chicago Police Department bodyguards assigned to the city clerk, city treasurer and Burke did not file a single police report. Andy Shaw, president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, a watchdog group in Chicago, asked,
This is a city that doesn't have enough money for basic services right now and doesn't have enough money to protect regular citizens. The question has to be asked whether a full-time bodyguard detail to one alderman who hasn't been shown to be in any kind of danger for more than two decades is warranted.
Attempts at other public office 
In 1980, Burke sought the Democratic nomination for Cook County State's Attorney. Burke was aligned with Mayor Jane Byrne and was endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. Burke's loss in the primary to Richard M. Daley was interpreted at the time as a set-back for the Chicago political machine.
In 1988, following the sudden death in office of Mayor Harold Washington, Burke was one of several candidates who sought to fill the vacancy. "I know I would like to be Mayor. It is obviously the Super Bowl of Chicago politics," Burke said. After polls showed declining support for his candidacy, he dropped out of the race in December, 1988 and endorsed Richard M. Daley, who won the nomination in the February 1989 Democratic primary.
Property tax attorney 
Burke is the lead partner in a Chicago law firm, Klafter and Burke, that specializes in representing clients in property tax appeals before the Cook County Assessor's Office, the Cook County Board of Review, and in the courts. The firm was successful in several "significant legal challenges" to Illinois real estate law. Burke's law firm's senior partner, Melvin Klafter, died June 5, 1988 at age 73. The number of tax appeals Burke's firm filed for clients with the Board of Tax Appeals increased from 212 in 1982 to 1,876 in 1995.
In 2007, although one of eight alderman who were attorneys, only Burke disclosed local government clients. Burke had 37 law clients that did business with the city or other local government agencies, according to his annual ethics statement filed with the city. Burke disclosed 2008 income above the reporting threshold of $5,000 from each of 31 law clients that do business with the city.
Burke has been criticized for alleged conflicts of interest involving law clients and his role as chairman of the Council's Finance Committee. Burke has helped line up millions of dollars in public subsidies to companies that later hired his firm for property tax assessment appeals. For example, Cotter and Company, a wholesaler to 6,000 True Value hardware stores, sought a package of public subsidies to keep their headquarters and operations in Chicago. In February, 1996, while the final components of the package of public subsidies were working their way through City Hall, Burke toured the company's headquarters, and, at the end of the tour, handed out his business card from his private law practice and asked for Cotter's property tax appeals business. Cotter decided to hire Burke in March, 1996 and finalized the arrangement in June, 1996. An unprecedented $2.8 million cash grant from the City to Cotter, never publicized by the Daley administration, was included in a $20 million bond issue and approved by the Burke-chaired Finance Committee and approved unanimously by the full City Council on July 31, 1996.
Burke abstains from at least a few votes at almost every Finance Committee meeting. In March, 1997, weeks after hiring defense attorney Valukus, and days after learning from the Chicago Sun-Times of their investigation into Burke's law firm and clients, Burke invoked a rarely-used motion to amend the proceedings of the City Council to change to abstentions four "yes" votes regarding airport facility leases for Midway and American airlines, two of Burke's seven airline clients. Burke blamed the recording of his "aye" votes on the late Alderman Thomas Cullerton, who chaired the City Council Committee on Aviation, which reviews airport leases. Cullerton had died in February, 1993, three months before Burke cast one of the votes he changed. At the July 2, 1997 City Council meeting, Burke changed to abstention a June 4, 1997 vote in favor of a property-tax break for another client, Heinemann's Inc., a baked goods company in Burke's 14th ward. Between 1993 and 1997, Burke put through six journal corrections on his votes, some dating back seven years, and accounting for more than half the corrections from all aldermen during that period. In 2004, Burke changed the record of a vote in support of a zoning change favorable to another of his clients, Centrum Properties. Burke's corrections of his voting history were criticized by other aldermen and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley suggested Burke was involved in conflicts of interest that merited investigation by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission and the City Board of Ethics, and Daley advocated more stringent regulation regarding aldermanic conflicts of interest. Burke's conflicts of interest inspired a strengthening of the City's ethics laws in October, 1998. The Council passed the ordinance, 40-9. Burke voted "no" in a voice vote, then switched to "yes" for the record.
Burke is also a licensed private detective in Illinois.
Personal life 
Burke resides in the southwestern Chicago neighborhood of Archer Heights, close to Curie Metropolitan High School and the Pulaski Station of the CTA Orange Line. Burke's wife Anne has served as an Illinois Appellate Court Justice and was installed as an Illinois Supreme Court Justice on July 4, 2006. Their adult children are Jennifer, Edward, and Sarah. Jennifer is an attorney who worked in the City of Chicago Law Department under Mayor Richard M. Daley's corporation counsel and now is on the Illinois Pollution Control Board. Burke's brother Daniel J. Burke is a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Illinois' 23rd District, which includes the 14th ward, as well as a lobbyist to Chicago City Hall. The Burkes, Edward, Daniel, and Anne, were named one of Illinois' most influential families by Crain's Chicago Business in 2005.
Baby T 
In February 1996, the Burkes became foster parents to an African American child, known in public by his court name "Baby T," born to a woman suffering drug addiction. The child's mother, Tina Olison, an addict in recovery, sued to regain custody of her child several times in a protracted, racially-charged court battle that drew extensive media attention. The suits ultimately reached the Illinois State Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of custody for the Burkes in 2001.
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