NBC 5 News has filed a lawsuit asking the Chicago City Council's Committee on Finance to release copies of subpoenas and warrants relating to federal raids on the committee as well as the 14th Ward office of its powerful chair, Ald. Ed Burke.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in Cook County Circuit Court.
Burke is both the alderman and the Democratic committeeman for the 14th Ward on the Southwest Side, as well as the longest-serving City Council member in Chicago history, first elected in 1969.
What government agents were seeking remains shrouded in secrecy. Amid the first round of raids, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Chicago office said in a statement that agents were "executing search warrants at multiple locations," but declined to comment further.
Burke said in a statement at the time, "there have previously been several other instances such as this."
"In every instance we cooperated fully. And in every instance nothing has been found. So once again we will be cooperating fully and I am completely confident that at the end of the day nothing will be found amiss in this instance either," he added. [[502405401, C]]
Prior to Thursday's lawsuit, NBC 5 News filed a request for public documents with the Committee on Finance, asking for all federal subpoenas and warrants, including those for Burke’s mobile devices.
In an email, the assistant chief administrative officer for the Committee on Finance denied the request, writing “this information is specifically prohibited from disclosure by a federal court order."
NBC 5 then asked for a copy of the federal court order, but thus far it has not been produced.
NBC 5 has been unable to independently verify the existence of any federal court order, prompting the court action.
The NBC 5 lawsuit, filed by attorney Matt Topic of the firm Lovey and Lovey, states that “On information and belief... there is no court order barring the release of the requested materials."
The lawsuit asks that the court declare that the Finance Committee violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and that all requested records be produced. [[502214111, C]]
"The Committee on Finance did not seek the Law Department’s legal advice in responding to this FOIA," said Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for the City of Chicago's Department of Law, in a statement, "and it is premature to respond to questions about a lawsuit when we have not formally been served and have not reviewed the relevant facts and documents."
Widely considered to be one of the most powerful politicians in Chicago, Burke is far and away the most prolific fundraiser on 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.
Burke has previously been subject to scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest, as well as federal investigations over allegations of ghost payrolling.
In 2012, a federal grand jury subpoenaed six years worth of records from Burke's Finance Committee amid an investigation into Chicago's employee disability program.
He has never faced charges in any of the investigations.
Burke, 74, is up for re-election in February, an election in which four other candidates have filed petitions to challenge him.
See the full lawsuit below: [[503246281, C]]