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Ald. Ed Burke Resigns as Finance Committee Chair, Emanuel Says

Ald. Ed Burke resigned as chair of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance after being charged with attempted extortion, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday. 

“I have spoken with Alderman Ed Burke, who agreed that the best course of action is for him to resign as Chairman of the Committee on Finance," Emanuel said in a statement.

"Because of his affection for the city, deep respect for the institution of City Council and the needs of his constituents, Alderman Burke took the appropriate step to put the interests of the city above all else."

Emanuel was among those calling on Burke to step down from the powerful post Thursday after the longtime 14th Ward alderman was hit with allegations that he had attempted to use his position to direct business to his personal property tax law firm. 

"Based on what we’ve seen in the complaint, the mayor believes it is unacceptable for him to continue as Chairman of the Finance Committee," a mayoral aide said in a statement Thursday.

Several aldermen were reluctant to speak on camera, but mayoral candidate and state Comptroller Susana Mendoza called for Burke to resign his committee post.

“Given the seriousness of today's allegation against Alderman Ed Burke, it is time for him to fully focus on the charge against him and resign his chairmanship of the Committee on Finance," Mendoza said in a statement. "Should he chose not to do so, the City Council and Mayor should move swiftly to force it."

Burke was charged with attempted extortion for "corruptly soliciting business" for his law firm, weeks after federal agents conducted raids at his 14th Ward office and his finance committee suite. 

Burke turned himself in on Thursday and was seen entering the federal courthouse downtown with his attorneys. He was given a $10,000 bond and ordered to surrender his passport and the 23 firearms the government said he had in his possession.

Burke is the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history and is considered the most prolific fundraiser on the City Council, with more than $12 million in three campaign committees as of the most recent filing deadline on Sept. 30.

Burke runs a law firm specializing in property tax appeals, and had previously worked for President Donald Trump on lowering taxes for his namesake Chicago tower. His firm, Klafter & Burke, stopped representing Trump earlier this year.

In 10 of Burke’s 11 elections, he has faced no challengers. Burke faces four potential challengers in the Feb. 26, 2019, election, though two of the candidates face petition challenges.

"I think it's nothing new," said Tanya Patino, candidate for the 14th Ward. "I think that he's probably done this multiple times. He just never got caught, and it finally caught up to him."

"It sounds like something small, but it really isn't. It's something big, and I think carries up to 20 years in jail," said 14th Ward candidate Jaime Guzman. So this is serious. It's about time that something of this sort of magnitude occurs." 

A spokeswoman for mayoral candidate Gery Chico, who Burke endorsed, issued a statement saying "no one is above the law."

"Gery has known Ed Burke for three decades, and he's extremely disappointed. No one is above the law. While we will closely watch the case as it plays out in the court system, Gery obviously will not accept support from Ed Burke in the upcoming mayoral race."

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