Ald. Burke’s COF Staff Dwarfs the COF Staffs from Other Cities
Rahm Emanuel increased taxes in six of the seven years that he has been mayor. When it comes to saving taxpayers’ money, Emanuel has yet to find the courage to cut the budget for Ald. Edward Burke’s Committee on Finance (COF). Burke has an astounding 50 or more employees on his COF staff than that of COF chairs from other major cities (see table below).
COF Staff Comparisons
Alderman or Council Member City COF Employees Population 2018 Budget
Edward Burke Chicago 65
Paul Krekorian Los Angeles 14 3.7 Million $9.2 Billion
Julissa Ferreras New York 5
Jack Christie Houston 3 2.3 Million $5.2 Billion
The comparison of the number of Burke’s COF employees to COF chairpeople of other cities should disgust every Chicago taxpayer. Receiving votes and winning elections for himself, his state representative brother Daniel Burke, and his wife State Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke are the primary motives for Burke hiring so many people for his City Council committee.
Burke hires employees who are willing to circulate petitions, solicit political donations, and campaign for him, his family members, and his favored candidates. If his employees don’t bring in enough campaign contributions or votes, Burke may immediately terminate his city employees because they are political appointees whom he may fire without cause. Between Oct. 2017 and Feb. 2018 five employees stopped working for the COF. During the same four month period, Burke hired eight new COF employees. This period was also the start of the 2018-19 election cycle.
Burke also hires relatives of influential politicians and union leaders to secure their political support. For example, Burke hired Molly Gabinski, a relative of former alderman and current plumber’s union official Terry Gabinski. During election seasons, plumbers affiliated with Gabinski’s union will campaign for Burke, Burke’s wife and brother or some other candidate Burke is supporting.
Similar to COF Chairman Burke, Commissioner John P. Daley chairs Cook County’s Finance Committee. Daley has only two people working on his COF staff.1 The Cook County budget is $5.2 billion in 2018. Chicago and Cook County governments are in the same building. Since Burke and Daley are both COF chairmen in the same building with similar size budgets, why does COF Chairman Burke have a staff of 65 COF employees and COF Chairman Daley have only two employees?
By virtue of being an alderman, Burke is entitled to three more aldermanic employees. As with the 49 other aldermen, Burke may hire two staff assistants to the alderman and one assistant to the alderman. These three jobs push the total number of Burke’s patronage employees to 68.
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth
Currently there is one executive branch department and three City Council committees whose primary focus is Chicago’s budget and finances. It is Mayor Emanuel’s responsibility to draft and submit Chicago’s annual budget to the City Council. Each year the mayor relies on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to help him formulate his budget. Chicago’s 2018 budget lists 33 OMB employees compared to Burke’s COF staff of 65 employees. Why does Burke have 32 more employees than the OMB when the mayor and OMB write virtually all of the city’s budget?
The Chicago City Council also has a Committee on Budget and Government Operations. According to its website, “The Committee on the Budget and Government Operations shall have jurisdiction over the expenditure of all funds appropriated and expended by the City of Chicago.” The number of employees in this committee weren’t included in the 2018 budget; nonetheless, the budget list the salaries of the committee’s employees as $500,000 a year.
In 2013 aldermen created the Council office of Financial Analysis. According to the original ordinance, some of the Council Office of Financial Analysis duties include a financial analysis of the Mayor’s proposed annual budget, annual budget options, and other analyses upon the request of the Chairman of the Committee on the Budget and Government Operations. The Financial Analysis committee employs four workers at a cost of $300,000 per year.
The table below tabulates the three City Council committees whose focus is the city’s annual budget and finances. In all, the Chicago City Council spends $4.0 million a year to have more than 70 employees work on the city’s finances and budget.2 The plus sign is next to 70 employees because the total number of City Council employees will go up when we learn the actual number of Budget and Government Operations employees.
Total Cost of Three Chicago City Council Budget and Finance Committees
Committee Employees Salaries
Finance 653 $3.2 Million
Unknown $0.5 Million
Financial Analysis 4 $0.3 Million
70+ $4.0 Million
Chicago’s Waste of Taxpayers’ Money
The Chicago City Council’s waste of taxpayers’ money is quite obvious when you compare Chicago City Council budget and finance committees to that of other cities (see table below). To manage New York City finances, the New York City Council has one Committee on Finance, which has sub-committee for the city’s budget. The Los Angeles City Council has one Budget and Finance Committee. The Houston City Council has one Budget and Finance Committee. Chicago is the only major city to have a City Council with three budget and finance committees while the other major cities only have one budget and finance committee.
City Council Budget and Finance Committee Comparisons
Chicago 3 70+ $4,000,000
Los Angeles 1 144 $1,167,4354
New York 1 55 $313.3295
Houston 1 36 $217,5566
The City Council committees on Finance, Budget and Government Operations, and Financial Analysis all oversee the city’s budget. Chicago politicians hiring multiple people to do one person’s job is the Chicago way. Aldermen wasting money on unnecessary committees and staff is true to Chicago’s political motto: “More Patronage, More Votes.” The City Council’s pork barrel expenditures for employees to analyze and slightly modify the city’s budget reminds me of the days when garbage truck crews picked up trash while using four employees. Why should Chicago politicians hire one patronage worker when they can hire three or four at taxpayers’ expense?
“As Chairman of the City Council’s powerful Committee on Finance, Alderman Burke holds the city’s purse strings and is responsible for all legislative matters pertaining to the city’s finances.” If Alderman Burke truly held the purse strings as he claims on his COF website, then the committees on Budget and Government Operations, and Financial Analysis don’t need to exist.
Given Chicago’s hard financial times, you would expect City Council members to show austerity or lead by example. The cost for three budget and finance committees show that the Chicago City Council has a majority of greedy aldermen who waste money on excessive patronage jobs for their own personal and political gain. Members of the City Council lavishly spending taxpayers’ money on their committees is the reason why Burke put together a coalition of 25 aldermen to block the inspector general’s office from investigating his committee and those of his co-conspirators.
To view Cook County FOIA for Commissioner and COF Chairman John Daley’s staff of two, click John Daley Staff.
To view the three Chicago City Council committees on budget and finance as they appear in the budget, click here and scroll to pages 41 through page 50.
To view the list of 65 Chicago COF employees and their salaries in response to FOIA request, click COF Staff February_2018.
To view a list of Los Angeles City Council Budget and Finance Committee employees and their salaries, click COF LA.
To view a list of New York City Council Budget and Finance Committee employees and their salaries, click NY COF Staff. Please note New York City Council COF Chair Julissa Ferreras left the New York City Council on Dec., 31, 2017. I submitted a new FOIA for a list of current New York COF employees and their salaries, including employees and salaries of those work in the Budget subcommittee. I will update this article when I receive my New York City Council FOIA, on or about April 10.
To view a list of Houston City Council Budget and Finance Committee employees and their salaries, click Houston COF Employees.