When Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 47 alderman approved the 2018 budget for the Committee on Finance (COF), Ald. Edward Burke had misinformed them about the number of employees working for his committee and the amount of money that the city was paying for their salaries. Burke’s budget list 25 COF employees for the 2018 fiscal year.1 The COF said in Feb., 2018 that 65 employees were working in the COF.2 Currently Burke’s COF staff of 65 has 40 more employees than the 25 COF employees listed in his 2018 budget.
In Oct. 2017 the COF said it had 62 employees working in the COF.3 Since the COF admitted Burke’s committee had 62 COF employees in Oct., 2017, it means Burke lied about the size of his staff when he and his colleagues passed his 2018 COF budget for 25 employees in Nov., 2017.
Off book means, “not properly declared for accounting purposes.” Today Burke’s committee has 40 off book COF employees because Burke failed to properly declare 40 of his COF employees in the 2018 budget. Simple subtraction was all that was needed to determine Burke’s 40 off book COF employees (see below).
65 COF employees listed in Feb., 2018 FOIA
(25) COF employees listed in Chicago’s 2018 budget
40 Off Book COF Employees
The COF has 40 employees whose salaries were also unaccounted for in the 2018 budget. The city is currently spending additional money to pay the salaries of Burke’s 40 off book COF employees. In February, 2018, the COF admitted that the current cost of COF employees’ salaries is $3.2 million a year.2 Again, simple subtraction was all that was needed to determine that the city is paying out an additional $1.4 million a year for Burke’s off book COF salaries (see below).
$3.2 Million listed for COF employees’s salaries in the Feb., 2018 FOIA
($1.8) Million listed for COF employees’s salaries in 2018 Budget
$1.4 Million for the Off Book Salaries of Burke’s COF Employees
Burke Stopped the Inspector General Ordinance to Hide His Off Book Employees
In 2016 Burke put together a coalition of 25 aldermen to block the inspector general (IG) from auditing and investigating his COF. There have been countless accusations of Burke’s misconduct during his 39 year reign as an alderman. Stopping the IG from investigating his committee is by far the worse allegation against Burke because Burke had a city ordinance passed to protect his wrongdoing. Burke was improperly hiring and employing his off book staff at the same time he blocked the IG from investigating him. Thanks to the City Council passing the ordinance Burke proposed, no one at the IG’s office can investigate Burke’s committee. Sadly, the IG conducting a simple audit would have exposed Burke’s 40 off book COF employees and the additional $1.4 million yearly cost to taxpayers.
Besides the $1.4 million a year in COF off book salaries, the taxpayers must pay for Burke’s off book employees’ health insurance and pensions. The city is paying for part of every COF off book employee’s health insurance. In addition, taxpayers are also contributing to Burke’s off book COF employees’ pensions.
Burke has 20 COF employees who earn between $23,108 and $29,208 a year.2 Burke pays 20 COF employees in the $20,000 to $30,000 a year range so he can hire more people for his COF staff. Burke uses his COF employees for patronage, so the more COF employees he hires, the more people Burke has to campaign for him and his favored candidates. Unfortunately taxpayers must continue to foot the bill for health insurance, pensions, and salaries for all of Burke’s off book patronage hiring.
Call to Action
Exposing Ald. Burke’s political corruption is one thing, but stopping the corruption and preventing it from happening again is the ultimate goal. Below are four actions that will stop and prevent COF corruption practices that come at a hefty cost to taxpayers.
Pass a Chicago Inspector General Ordinance that allows the IG to investigate aldermanic programs and committees beginning with the COF.
The second Mayor Emanuel signs the IG ordinance, the IG should start an audit of Ald. Burke’s Committee on Finance for the last seven years.
Remove Ald. Burke as City Council Committee on Finance Chairman. During Council Wars in the 1980s, a judge ruled that the City Council is a separate branch of government and has a right to organize itself. Aldermen don’t have to wait until after the 2019 elections to end Burke’s 30 year reign as COF chairman. How ironic that thanks to Burke and the rest of the Vrdolyak 29’s actions in the 1980s, a majority of aldermen may vote in 2018 to remove Burke as COF Chairmen.
Transfer the management of the Workers’ Compensation program from the COF to the executive branch of government. Except for Chicago no city or state in the country has a legislative committee managing it workers’ comp program. Professionals should run Chicago workers’ comp instead of a bunch of political hacks that work for Ald. Burke.