The U.S. Attorney's Office wants to know if Chicago's employee disability program, operated by the City Council's Finance Committee and its longtime chairman, Ald. Ed Burke, is ripping off taxpayers.
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed six years worth of records from the committee. Burke has twice ought past attempts to get the documents released.
The city spent $115 million last year to pay for disabled city workers. It's a cost the mayor clearly wants trimmed.
"I want oversight and tough reform of the system because I think $15 million of savings is just the beginning," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday.
The subpoena asks for injury records, medical assessment and even the duties of staff members who run the program.
"This is a scam that is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars," University of Illinois Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson said Wednesday.
The investigation, he said, might lead to a reorganization of the program.
"Probably the whole workman comps issue ought to be moved into the Executive Branch, but that picks up a fight between the mayor and the head of the Finance Committee," said Simpson.
As the federal investigation moves forward, Burke has offered records to aldermanic Inspector General Faisal Khan, rather than the city's Inspector General, Joe Ferguson. Critics say Khan has little support or authority.
"This is likely to become a big deal because of the number of people illegally on disability, taking millions of dollars from the taxpayers, is pretty large and pretty significant," said Simpson.
A spokesman for Burke's office acknowledged the subpoenas and said the office is fully cooperating. The Finance Committee has until Sept. 4 to turn over the documents.