Burke slapped with $2,000 fine for ethics violation

on May2
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2019-05-02 17:53:23

A $2,000 fine levied by the Chicago Board of Ethics is a small-time problem compared to the attempted extortion charge against Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and the June 7 deadline federal prosecutors face to indict Burke.

But it’s an embarrassment, nonetheless, stemming from one of the closest and most contentious City Council debates of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s eight-year administration.

The Board of Ethics has fined Burke 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.

“The alderman had properly disclosed to the Board of Ethics that he intended to recuse from a matter involving Presence Health Care, which entity his law firm represented on an unrelated matter within the 12 months prior to the meeting, but presided over that portion of the meeting at which the Presence matter was discussed, introduced witnesses, and answered procedural questions from his colleagues,” the Ethics Board ruling states.

Although Burke subsequently recused himself from the vote on the Presence Health subsidy, the Ethics Board unanimously agreed on April 26 that his involvement in the meeting and debate “constituted participation in the matter” and assessed a $2,000 fine.

The Ethics Board also voted unanimously to dismiss another matter against Burke where it had previously found probable cause.

It involved votes taken by the Finance Committee on March 26, 2018 relating to general airport revenue bonds.

In that case, Burke had “properly disclosed that he intended to recuse himself because his law firm had represented some of the financial institutions involved and did properly recuse himself,” the ethics report states.

“The board had before it no evidence that he had presided over that portion of the Committee on Finance meeting in which the airport bond matter was discussed. Hence, by the same vote, the matter was dismissed and closed by the board.”

Burke could not be reached for comment.

Days after Burke allegedly went over the line, a divided City Council signed off on the $5.5 million Presence Health subsidy after an emotionally charged debate that focused on the volatile issues of race and a woman’s right to choose.

The vote to honor a tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidy promise that persuaded Presence Health to build a downtown headquarters and build health clinics in four chronically under-served communities was 31 to 18.

It was one of the closest votes of retiring Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s eight-year administration.

On Jan. 3, Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and for a $10,000 campaign contribution to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Lake Forest businessman Charles Cui plead not guilty to federal bribery charges for hiring Burke to handle property tax appeals in exchange for the now-deposed Finance Committee chairman’s help with a sign for a new Binny’s Beverage Depot that was part of the development Cui was building in Portage Park.

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