Investigation shows how Burke worked with colleagues to bypass conflict of interest rules

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CHICAGO — It’s a window into The Chicago Way.

A government watchdog investigation is shedding light on how Alderman Ed Burke’s colleagues helped him get around city conflict of interests rules.

The investigation from the Better Government Association showed Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson and former Alderman Michael Zalewski sponsored six resolutions that benefited clients of indicted Burke’s law firm. The move Burke to skirt conflict-of-interest rules steering millions to his clients.

In one instance, the owners of a trucking company warehouse project seeking a city tax incentive hired Burke’s law firm. Klafter & Burke represented the owners in a successful property tax appeal. Later, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration signed off on the city tax incentive, preparing a resolution with Burke’s name and ward typed on the document. But when the resolution was introduced to City Council, Patrick Daley Thompson’s name was on it and the resolution passed with Burke abstaining from voting.

The BGA also reported the practice of Thompson sponsoring tax-incentive requests for Burke clients continued three months after Burke’s arrest.

Thompson is the nephew of Mayor Richard M. Daley. WGN News reached out to the aldermen for comment but have not heard back. Efforts to reach Zalewski’s attorney were not successful.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who ran on a promise of good governance, is taking aim at conflicts of interest and insider dealing. While in office she’s tightened rules on outside jobs and City Hall lobbying, increases fines for ethics violations, given the Inspector General power to audit City Council committees and signed an executive order curbing aldermanic privilege.

Lightfoot has passed ethics reform but nothing to prevent aldermen from doing what the BGA says Burke did.

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