Criminal Justice

Alderman is accused of using his position to solicit law firm business; his wife is a state justice

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Edward Burke.

Photo of Edward Burke from Kate Gardiner / Wikimedia Commons.

A longtime Chicago alderman has been charged with attempted extortion for allegedly soliciting business for his law firm from a fast-food company seeking a remodeling permit.

Alderman Edward Burke was charged Wednesday in a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, reported the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Burke was seeking business for his law firm Klafter & Burke, which handles property tax appeals, the complaint said.

FBI agents raided Burke’s city hall and ward offices Nov. 29, the same day that Burke’s wife, Anne Burke, was sworn in to a second 10-year term as an Illinois Supreme Court justice. Anne Burke kept her judicial seat in a retention vote in November.

The restaurant company was identified only as “Company A” in the complaint. The Sun-Times, however, said the company was Burger King.

The complaint cites evidence from recorded phone calls and emails.

The charge against Burke stems from the Burger King’s quest for a remodeling permit in 2017 for a restaurant in Burke’s ward. Burke is accused of causing a work stoppage for more than two months during the remodeling after complaining that he had never signed off on a driveway permit.

Burke had solicited business for his law firm from the restaurant company during a meeting at a country club before the project began, then decided to play “hard ball” when the company did not deliver the business, the complaint said.

In a later meeting after the work stoppage, Burke again solicited business for his law firm and sought a campaign donation for another local politician, the complaint said. The company received a driveway permit after pledging to deliver work to Burke’s firm, though it didn’t follow through on that promise.

The company also made a $10,000 donation to the politician’s campaign committee, but the amount was later reduced to the campaign limit of $5,600.

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