Son of former Burke ally accuses him of ethics violation

Fran Spielman exposes Alderman Edward Burke again.

The alderman is alleged to have presided over workers’ comp claims for members of eight unions represented by his law firm.By Fran Spielman  May 22, 2019, 12:51pm CDTSHARE

A new ethics complaint filed Wednesday adds to the legal woes faced by Ald. Edward Burke (14th). 

Embattled Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was accused Wednesday of violating the city’s ethics ordinance by presiding over workers’ compensation claims for members of eight labor unions his law firm represented.

The complaint was filed by Jay Stone, the maverick son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Stone (50th). Until his death in December 2014, Bernard Stone was a close friend and longtime ally of Burke.

But that didn’t stop the younger Stone from compounding the legal troubles of Burke, who has already been charged with attempted extortion and is facing a broader indictment next month.

Two years ago, Stone filed a lawsuit accusing Burke of turning the city’s $100 million-a-year workers’ compensation program over to “his handpicked political appointees” in violation of the Shakman decree, which banned political hiring. The still-pending suit accused Burke of cutting disability checks as favors to political pals.

Stone’s new complaint, filed Wednesday with Inspector General Joe Ferguson, accuses Burke of administering workers’ comp claims for members of eight unions represented by Klafter & Burke: the Plumbers; Carpenters; Laborers; Firefighters Union Local 2; Teamsters; Operating Engineers; Electrical Workers and the Iron Workers Local 1.

(Operating Engineers Local 150 has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.)

“He’s using his influence to enhance his personal wealth,” Stone said Wednesday. “He’s using politics, his job as an alderman, to increase his legal income.”

Burke could not be reached for comment on the complaint, which pales by comparison to the attempted extortion charge against him and the June 7 deadline federal prosecutors face to indict the 50-year veteran alderman.

According to Stone, Burke’s law firm started representing two of the unions in 2013, two others in 2014 and continues to represent seven of the eight unions today.

Stone also cited the conflict of interest posed by Burke voting for a 2007 collective bargaining agreement with six of those trade unions and for the 2014 firefighters contract before acquiring all of them on as law clients.

“The unions’ hiring Alderman Burke after he voted in favor of the CBAs gives the appearances that the unions paid Alderman Burke for legal services in exchange for his political influence and union contract support,” the complaint states.

Even more egregious, Stone contends, is the conflict posed by having the Burke-chaired Finance Committee administer workers’ comp claims for members of the eight unions represented by his law firm.

According to Stone, that’s a clear violation of the city’s ethics ordinance, which prohibits public officials and city employees from making of participating in “any governmental decision with respect to any matter in which he has any financial interest distinguishable from that of the general public or from which he has derived any income or compensation” during the year before and after the decision is made.

Earlier this month, the Board of Ethics slapped Burke with a $2,000 fine for presiding over a Finance Committee hearing on Jan. 12, 2018 when aldermen debated and approved a $5.5 million subsidy to Illinois’ largest Catholic health system, in spite of Presence Health’s anti-abortion policy.

In the new complaint, Stone is arguing for a “separate ethical violation” and fine for “each time” Burke administered a workers’ comp claim involving members of the eight unions represented by his law firm.

Stone also cites 78 tax increment financing agreements that went through the Burke-chaired Finance Committee before Burke was deposed after being charged with attempted extortion.

All those TIF agreements include prevailing wage clauses that “protect the unions who hired him for his legal services” and should constitute separate ethics violations, the complaint contends.

“Ald. Burke inserted the prevailing wage clause into TIF agreements as a means to benefit the unions who hired him for legal services and contributed to his political campaigns,” the complaint states.

Stone describes himself as an “advocate” for Patrick McDonough, an injured Water Management employee who claims his worker’s comp claims were “stopped for 3.5 years” in retaliation for his decision to blow the whistle on the Hired Truck and other scandals.

In 2008, Stone won a $75,000 award from the $12 million fund created to compensate victims of City Hall’s rigged hiring system.

Federal hiring monitor Brennan believed his claims that he was a sure loser in his 2003 aldermanic election against Ald. Ted Matlak (32nd) because Matlak had the support of the political army commanded by now-convicted former First Deputy Water Commissioner Donald Tomczak.

“I’m in shock. I’m in awe,” Jay Stone said at the time.

“The message is we should hold fair and competitive elections in Chicago. I never stood a chance because I was up against a seasoned political army that was being paid for by the taxpayers of Chicago,” he said then.

At the time, veteran aldermen branded the award “outrageous,” calling it evidence that Brennan “doesn’t have a clue.”

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