Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin remains silent on office raid

CHICAGO – Nearly 24 hours after FBI agents raided her 34th Ward office, Alderman Carrie Austin has not spoken publicly about what happened.

Austin left home early Thursday morning, ignoring the throng of reporters greeting her. A constituent town hall scheduled for Thursday was cancelled. Austin is a member of the Democratic Party executive committee, but did not attend a slating meeting Thursday. Party Boss Toni Preckwinkle said it’s too soon to dump Austin.

Since 1994, Austin has been serving the 34th Ward, which includes West Pullman, Washington Heights, Morgan Park and Roseland. She's the second longest-serving active alderman, behind indicted Alderman Ed Burke. Austin formerly worked closely with Burke as City Council's Budget Chair.

An influential power broker, Austin was furious when she heard that former Alderman Danny Solis allegedly wore a wire to secretly record conversations with his colleagues.

Business resumed Thursday at Austin’s Ward Office. But the FBI confirmed Wednesday they were "conducting court-authorized law enforcement activities" in the area of the office. It is unknown what the agents were looking for and no charges have been filed.

Austin’s colleagues and friends came to her defense Thursday, pointing out no one has been charged.

"People, please do not rush to judgement. The Carrie Austin that I know is a person of great integrity and great character. We do not know what this is about," Alderman David Moore (17th Ward) said.

"I know that the federal government has a job to do and they’re doing their investigation. I know times like this seem like everybody seems to abandon you and leave you alone. So I’m not here to judge what happened," Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she did not know the raid was coming, calling it a "shocking development," but says she doesn’t know anything more than the public.

"It’s obviously a serious thing. I know what you know," she said Wednesday. "I’ve been following the news reports over the course of the day. ... I can’t say that expected it. I don’t have insight into the scope and perimeters of the federal investigation are. "

Some constituents say they're aware of the investigation, but say they still like Austin.

"Nothing is surprising in Chicago, but I’ll tel you this much: I’ve never had any problems with her running our ward," Consuela Powell said.

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