Synopsis: Chicago Political and Gov’t Slime Finds Its Own Level—Can We Find Higher Ground?
Editor’s comment: Last week, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was criminally charged by federal prosecutors with a count of attempted extortion on Jan. 3, 2019. Ed Burke is the longest sitting alderman in the history of aldermen/women. The federal criminal charge alleges Burke tried to use his elected position to get legal work out of a fast food restaurant that sought his clearance for a remodeling and driveway project in 2017. A federal criminal complaint unsealed last Thursday charged Burke with attempted extortion for allegedly using his position as alderman to try to steer thousands of dollars in RE tax “appeal” business to his private law firm from a company seeking to renovate a fast-food restaurant in his ward. The charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison on conviction.
The complaint also alleged Burke asked one of the company’s executives in December 2017 to attend an upcoming political fundraiser for "another politician." Sources identified the politician as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is running for Chicago mayor.
Authorities were allowed to seal the warrant to arrest Ald. Burke so he wouldn't flee. The case filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago started a little more than a month after the FBI carried out two raids on Burke’s City Hall office, working for hours behind windows covered with brown butcher paper before leaving down a back staircase with computers and files. The unveiling of the criminal charges touched off a scene last Thursday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, where Burke turned himself in to federal prosecutors before appearing before a magistrate judge in a packed courtroom on the building’s 17th floor. He was released on a $10,000 bond.
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, executives from the fast food company sought Burke’s clearance for a City of Chicago building permit. Burke arranged to meet with the executives and “used his position as an Alderman — including his apparent ability to withhold his official support for the building permit and a related driveway permit — in order to corruptly solicit unlawful personal financial advantage in the form of fees arising from the retention of Burke’s law firm, Klafter and Burke.”
What Does This Have to Do With Workers’ Comp?
For decades Ed Burke has chaired the Chicago City Council’s omnipotent Finance Committee, which controls city spending, as well as what some folks call the City of Chicago’s $100 million-plus a year workers’ compensation “defense” system. The reason I put in quotes--the….$100 million-plus a year WC “defense” system is because no one on this planet can figure out what is defended and exactly how much is spent/wasted on workers’ comp in the City of Chicago. In my opinion and understanding, Alderman Burke “hides” the money for workers’ comp benefits in a large assortment of places—some of it is in department budgets, some of it is in a workers’ comp budget, lots of it is virtually impossible to trace. I am told but cannot prove the City of Chicago may have as many as 3,000 pending litigated WC claims at any given time. I have searched the City of Chicago employee database and there was no one listed as a “workers’ comp adjuster” at any time. I have been advised there is one adjuster and one Corp. Counsel defense lawyer for all those claims. To my further understanding, the responsibilities of managing millions in WC benefits for City workers could be switched regularly under Alderman Burke.
To my understanding, you don’t get to be a City of Chicago WC vendor without working out some deal with Alderman Burke where you pay and pay and pay to see if he might wave his magic wand at your company. In my opinion, he could care less about whether your company might be the best claims adjusting company, law firm, nurse case management concern, voc rehab provider or whatever, his primary concern was to have you make regular political donations and bring his law firm all of your clients’ real estate tax adjustment work. To my further understanding, Alderman Burke received regular political donations from one WC defense firm that handled the City’s so-called “emergency” WC claims; Ed Burke also received lots of donations from three Petitioner/Plaintiff firms.
Alderman Burke also is unique because for decades, he would not allow workers to be brought back to light work, allowing them to stay off and receive tax-free work comp benefits for decades in some cases. The whole time the injured City of Chicago worker was on WC benefits, they would continue to accrue pension credit and then get a nice lump-sum settlement along with a lifetime fake gov’t pension. Alderman Burke was also an opponent of surveillance of the injured workers under his supervision because he did not want to deal with anyone learning someone who might be getting work comp benefits was also running a business or working a second job. I am sure but can’t prove to you the number of WC fraud charges brought against City of Chicago workers under Alderman Burke was zero, zip, nada.
Outside looking in, what I feel Alderman Burke did was to basically use the City of Chicago workers’ comp program as a way to turn city workers into his serfs or peons—anyone who would receive years, maybe decades of tax-free benefits and no longer have to work at all after suffering a minor injury would be a loyal political worker. Please note that tawdry claims concept isn’t expressly illegal, it is just what I feel is an ethical abomination.
What Other Arguable Skullduggery Occurred Under Alderman Burke?
Well, most folks don’t know the City of Chicago Police and Fire Disability Systems were under the direction and control of Alderman Burke. Ed Burke would allow police officers and firefighters to remain on disability pay for decades at taxpayer expense. While on such “disability pay,” some of these supposedly disabled folks would go to college and law school and better themselves, all while on the dole. The idea of bringing an injured cop back to a 911 desk seemed to me to be too challenging for Alderman Burke—why not just allow that worker to feast on the benefit stream and remain loyal during elections to whoever Alderman Burke pointed them to?
Last but not least, Alderman Burke was famous for seeking real estate tax adjustment business for his law firm. In my view, the fake and phony process of what our legislators and administrators call real estate property tax “appeals,” is a complete joke and should be a national embarrassment. Basically thousands of assessments are created by moron county clerk-types who screw the assessments up regularly. No one is ever called to task for making such mistakes. There is no effort by the Cook County Assessor’s Office to insure the assessments are triple-checked and run through what our kids call “computers” so the levy is accurate to the dollar. Basically what has gone on for decades in Cook County is
The assessor’s clerks screw up the levy;
All real estate owners are of the impression they need to hire a lawyer to “appeal” or more likely seek an adjustment of their proposed real estate taxes and
The real estate “appeal” lawyers rake in literally billions in getting the taxes adjusted.
If you think I am kidding when I say this fake and phony process actually costs real estate owners in Cook County billions of dollars, please send a reply and I will show you what I have as strong proof. Please note any discount given by the County over their initial mispricing of the levy doesn’t mean real estate owners don’t lose between 1/3-1/2 of the supposed “savings” by having to pay the lawyers.
Please note there is almost no legal work involved in this fake and phony real estate tax adjustment process—the so-called “appeal” form is almost always filled out by an admin for the lawyers’ firms. No lawyer files a motion or orally argues anything—the same clerks who screwed up the assessment read the “appeal” form and may cut the assessment in reliance thereon.
Actually, real estate tax “appeal” law isn’t taught in any Illinois law school and there have never been any real estate tax questions on the Illinois bar exam. I have never seen a seminar or continuing legal education on improving legal acumen in the real estate tax adjustment process. I have also never seen an appellate court or supreme court ruling on a real estate tax adjustment.
To my understanding, Alderman Burke has resigned from the Chairmanship of the Finance Committee. An audit has been called for to try to locate the money wasted on the City’s WC program. As there is an election very shortly, let’s hope the new mayor takes a hard look at how the City’s WC defense program has been run and brings in some outside folks to cut the claims and get injured workers back to work and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
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Synopsis: Short but interesting news from Kevin Boyle, J.D. about Indiana’s WC administrators.
Editor’s comment: Kevin reports Bridget Repay was set to take over District 1 for Single Hearing Member Gerald Ediger. However, it was just disclosed she is not taking the position. Single Hearing Member Sarkisian will temporarily cover District 1 until a replacement is announced. As soon as a new one is announced, Kevin will let you know.
Kevin is one of the top defense attorneys in Indiana and handles WC and GL claims across the State. No one closes them faster—feel free to contact Kevin any time with your toughest Hoosier WC questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.