The charges aren’t unique and Ed Burke isn’t the first alderman accused of shaking down a business owner.
But what sets his case apart is that Burke is no ordinary alderman. He controls the city’s purse strings and has made millions on the side as a property tax attorney.
Burke has been investigated before, but never charged.
It was the most routine of aldermanic dealings, according to the feds, the issuance of a building and driveway permits. The requestor, though, was a large owner and operator of fast food restaurants in the city. And according to prosecutors, Burke wanted their business.
Burke is accused of holding up permits “in order to corruptly solicit unlawful personal financial advantage in the form of fees arising from the retention of Burke's law firm."
It’s now clear, the feds have been listening in on Burke’s phone calls since at least May of 2017.
In one call setting up a meeting with the developer, Burke is heard saying “We were going to talk about the real estate tax representation and you were going to have somebody get in touch with me so we can expedite your permits."
That was nearly a year and half before FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall and ward offices.
At the time, he told WGN, “There’s not much I can say. I’ve done nothing wrong. And I’ve always cooperated with investigations in the past and I’ll continue with this one.”
Prosecutors said Burke discussed the permits for private law practice business swap with an out-of-state politician who referred the restaurant-chain owner.
“I’d also like to get some of his law business,” Burke was heard saying in one wiretap. “I hear he’s got 300 [restaurants] here. … He’s somebody you and I should try and get to know”
The out of state politician described as Individual C responded, “I’m glad you called me about it. And, that’s why I figured I’d work with him. But I’ll make sure he, he understands it.”
“Good,” Burke said.
The feds said when the restaurant owner didn’t switch to Burke’s law firm, he ordered a ward worker to shut down the remodeling project.
The restauranteur told investigators he could “read between the lines” and that it was “his understanding that Burke was soliciting legal business in exchange for his help with permits for the restaurant.”
All of it, rather unseemly for an alderman who prides himself as being above the fray, a student of history and purveyor of power.
Burke was a police officer before he became an alderman. Decades later, he still wears a police star instead the similar shield offered to alderman.
Burke is also said to have solicited a campaign contribution from the restaurant owner for an “un-named” politician. The restaurateur gave $10,000 dollars.
Read the complaint against Burke below: