STUMP » Articles » The Undeniable Corruption of Chicago and Illinois: part 2 - Workers Compensation Fund » 1 February 2019, 17:46

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The Undeniable Corruption of Chicago and Illinois: part 2 - Workers Compensation Fund  

by

1 February 2019, 17:46

While I rub my hands over the juicy news that Mike Madigan was one of the many recorded on Solis’s wire, let’s get to the next piece of the Ed Burke story: the Workers Compensation Fund.

Illinois Policy Institute: CHICAGO ALDERMEN GIVE UP CONTROL OF $100M WORKERSCOMP PROGRAM

A federal corruption charge against Chicago Ald. Ed Burke has led peers to hand control of the $100 million-a-year workers’ compensation program to the city finance department. Burke, who had overseen the program for decades, fought program oversight and staffed it with political allies.

Chicago aldermen are giving up power over the city’s $100 million-a-year workers’ compensation program as part of the fallout from Ald. Ed Burke’s corruption prosecution.

Burke resigned as chairman of the council’s finance committee Jan. 4, giving up decades of control over the workers’ compensation program, after he was charged by federal prosecutors with attempted extortion. Days later, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered a forensic audit of the program and said oversight of the program should move to the city’s Department of Finance.

Finance committee members met Jan. 22, the first time since Burke resigned, and voted to hand off control of the program to the Department of Finance. Burke was absent. The full City Council voted to pass the ordinance the following day.

On Jan. 22, Emanuel announced Grant Thornton would conduct the workers’ compensation program audit. The mayor had earlier said a preliminary report would be released within 60 days of selecting an auditing firm.

Oh, I’m looking forward to that.

WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE: A SHORT EXPLAINER

First, I’m likely to get some of the details wrong below – I have no professional workers comp experience. It falls under the property & casualty umbrella of types of insurance (so, it’s somewhat like liability insurance), and it’s actually the spur to the creation of the Casualty Actuarial Society.

Workers compensation insurance got started a little over 100 years ago in the U.S., and was a system to provide money to workers injured on the job. The most known aspect of workers comp is getting medical care paid for, but often there can be other components. FWIW, it’s (usually) operated on a “no fault” basis…so when, for example, Stu stabbed himself in the leg with a box-cutter while breaking down boxes at his job, nobody was going to say “he shouldn’t have been doing that!” and not pay…. and Stu wasn’t going to be able to sue the employer.

It’s kind of a win-win for employers and employees, but you’ll often see, if you have an ER trip and you’re covered by other health insurance, you may get a questionaire to ask if you received the injury on the job. This is due to subrogation, something that makes perfect sense to insurance people and confuses and annoys the hell out of everybody else. What is hilarious to me is when I’ve had to take the kids to the ER, and I get one of these surveys… no, my then 4-year-old child didn’t get that cut that needed stitches because of a workplace injury. I mean, I suppose he could have been a child actor or something.

Back to the U.S.: some workers comp funds are run by states, some insurance is done by private companies (and highly regulated by states), and… it’s a highly contentious line of business in P&C.

There can be a lot of fraud, there is is issue of state-run funds and private insurers in the same states, compared to other P&C business (other than certain liability lines) it can build up huge reserves and people will say they’re charging too-high premiums, you can get wacky claims, that workers comp can prevent the injured worker from suing the employer for dangerous conditions, inadequate coverage and more.

That’s even before you get politicians involved.

INTERLUDE: GLOATING OVER CORRUPTION EXPOSURE

And don’t get me started at what they call “pizza” in Chicago…

Squirm time for Chicago politicians

The taint of scandal is spreading. By Election Day — Feb. 26 — corruption could edge past city finances, violence and schools to become the top issue. Voters, if you want to change Chicago’s insular, sometimes criminal political culture, this is your moment.

Well, only if one could find non-corrupt politicians who are running. That’s a tough one.

It would be nice if public officials would observe the unfolding action and root for a political cleanse. Chicago’s sordid tradition of insider dealings erodes public trust as it costs taxpayers money. So far, though, much of the reaction is defensive and cynical. Some aldermen took the news of Solis wearing a wire as an affront to the Chicago political version of omerta, the mafia loyalty oath.
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Meanwhile, mayoral candidates with ties to Burke or Solis are scurrying for cover. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who raised $116,000 at a fundraiser at Burke’s house, insists she hardly knows the guy. She has tried to downplay her connection to Burke’s son Edward Jr. landing a $100,000 county job. On Wednesday, though, she acknowledged that she had met with Burke the senior about hiring his son. The Tribune reported that Burke Jr. was under investigation for misconduct in his previous job at the Cook County sheriff’s office, but Preckwinkle said she hadn’t known about that.

Bullshit.

Mayoral hopeful Susana Mendoza has double trouble: She got her political start with Burke’s help, and she’s close to Solis. On Thursday, Mendoza said she would give away nearly $142,000 raised from Solis and a company founded by Patti Solis Doyle, his sister. Mendoza and Preckwinkle, who previously said they would not keep money connected to Burke, are getting hit hard by political opponents over these ties. Mendoza canceled a fundraiser in Washington organized by Solis Doyle.

By the way, you non-Chicago people may be familiar with Patti Solis Doyle’s name already… she had been a campaign advisor to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Yes, of course, these people all know each other.

WHY WAS BURKE RUNNING THE CHICAGO WORKERS COMP FUND?.

Forget about Burke specifically — why did anybody think it was legit to have the Chicago aldermen run an insurance program? Yes, I know the Chicago workers comp fund is supposed to cover people who work for the city of Chicago, but neither do we expect governmental entities to even run their own health insurance programs, or property insurance programs, etc. Why not just bid it out to actual insurance companies?

Workers compensation sometimes runs as state funds (whether to cover public workers only or all workers)… but that’s not what is done in Illinois in general. In general, they have private insurers, which are then overseen by the state department of insurance. Indeed, Illinois just tried created a state Workers Comp fund last year:

After failing to override the governor’s veto of a similar bill last year, Illinois House Democrats are again trying to create a state-funded workers’ compensation company, but businesses most impacted by the state’s high costs say the plan is not what they’re looking for.

Earlier this month, the House Labor and Commerce Committee passed state Rep. Laura Fine’s bill that would create a workers compensation insurance company using $10 million from a state fund.

Fine, D-Glenview, argued the measure will help bring rates down by having a competing entity that’s a nonprofit.

It did get passed in the House, but it’s not yet through the Illinois Senate, if I read that record correctly — but I’m not familiar with all of Illinois legislative procedure. A similar bill was vetoed by then Gov. Rauner in 2017. Evidently, they keep trying to do this, because of how high workers comp rates are in Illinois… the problem is, when you’ve got a really competitive insurance market, and state oversight, you can’t really say the problem is lack of competition or something untoward going on.

As this article from April 2018 notes:

“Illinois has the most competitive workers’ compensation insurance marketplace in the country — 323 insurers currently compete for business across the state. There is simply no need for the government to enter the market,” [American Insurance Association vice-president for state affairs Steve] Schneider said.

I assume he is correct in his numbers. And I, too, am extremely skeptical that a state-run “nonprofit” will provide competition currently lacking. They should probably focus on oversight, eh?

But, again, given so many private market insurers write workers comp business in Illinois, why was there a city-run fund?

WORKERS COMP IN CHICAGO V COOK COUNTY V ILLINOIS

A Chicago Tribune Editorial from August 2018:

It might be tempting to brush off a lawsuit filed recently against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, as politically motivated.

Two longtime critics of City Hall accuse Emanuel and Burke of violating Illinois law and the state and U.S. constitutions. The alleged infraction? Allowing Burke, through the City Council Finance Committee he chairs, to administer the city’s workers’ compensation program. The suit argues that the program, which costs taxpayers at least $100 million per year, according to a 2016 inspector general report, should be run by a City Hall agency, human resources professionals or the Law Department.

The suit says the current arrangement — which is spelled out in the Chicago Municipal Code — is unconstitutional because it assigns executive functions to the legislative branch. We’ll leave that question to the courts. There’s zero doubt, however, that vesting complete control of the workers’ comp fund in a single committee chair, shielded from oversight, is a terrible idea.

So it’s in the Chicago Municipal Code.

When did it get put in there, and who put it there?

Burke’s role as the gatekeeper of workers’ comp benefits for the entire city of Chicago invites cynicism, and rightfully so. The lawsuit alleges that Burke, who has chaired the finance committee for 33 of the last 35 years, leverages his position to load up his staff with patronage workers. The role also allows him to dole out favors as he determines the outcomes of hundreds of cases of city workers who claim they were injured on the job.

Burke has been around for at least 33 of the last 35 years…oh, wait, he’s been an alderman for 50 years. Just remember that for later.

We have long argued, along with a few members of the City Council, that city Inspector General Joe Ferguson should have the authority to audit the program. Someone other than Burke and his staff should be reviewing cases and claims that involve public workers and taxpayer money.

But Burke, assisted by weak-kneed aldermen, has managed to wall off his committee from the purview of Ferguson’s office. The City Council in 2016 helped him by gutting an ordinance that would have given Ferguson the authority to examine Burke’s books. This was after many aldermen claimed to be in favor of it a year earlier, during election season. Then they flipped.

It was outrageous then and it’s outrageous now.

Well, it’s moot now. Kind of. The City Council has shoved it onto somebody else.

Perhaps the fund should be liquidated, mmm? Perhaps the government should put the business out to bid to insurance companies?

By comparison, Cook County’s workers’ comp committee, chaired by County Board member Tim Schneider, R-Bartlett, reviews and signs off on decisions that are made by experts in the county’s risk management department and the state’s attorney’s office. Schneider doesn’t have a staff. He isn’t negotiating compensation decisions. And the committee and its cases are open to the scrutiny of the county inspector general and the public. Cases that require a settlement eventually come to the full County Board for approval.

At the state level, it’s similar. Lawmakers who head up House and Senate committees on public health or transportation or education don’t actually administer programs in those subject areas. The agency heads and staff who work for the state of Illinois do.

I prefer having insurance run by insurance companies – involving people who actually know how to balance solvency and competitiveness. State workers comp funds have a bad habit of needing to get bailed out. There are reasons, including the political drive to underprice the risks… and assuming everybody else will pay when it goes wrong.

Here is an interesting piece on workers comp in Illinois, with a focus on oil and gas workers:

The cost of workers’ compensation insurance is a perennial political issue in Illinois. Employers, insurance companies and Republicans like Gov. Bruce Rauner argue that payments for medical care and lost wages are artificially high to enrich doctors and plaintiffs lawyers. Responding to employers, the General Assembly cut payments to doctors by 30 percent in 2011. Even so, rates in Illinois were eighth-highest in the nation in 2016, according to a study, and twice as high as Indiana’s. Insurers reversed losses to report an average profit of 11 percent in 2014. Little wonder that Rauner and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association are calling for further cost cuts to save jobs.
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Perhaps one reason is that around 2008, insurance companies cracked down on safety. When Eric Puntney, owner of Chaney & Karch Insurance Group in Mount Vernon, started in oil and gas insurance in 2001, maybe half his customers offered safety training, he says. Now, almost all of them do. Major insurers like Bitco Insurance, HDI Global and Travelers already required such programs in big oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to underwrite policies. The smaller Illinois market may have escaped their notice at first, he says, but that changed.

In general, businesses in Illinois pay higher workers’ compensation premiums than Indiana, which had a median premium in 2016 of $1.05 for every $100 in payroll, making it the second-lowest in the nation. Drillers paid an insurance rate of $3.90 for every $100 in payroll.

Why? The agencies that determine insurance rates, like the National Council on Compensation Insurance, do so by examining insurers’ recent payouts for medical treatment and lost wages. The benefits that Indiana pays to injured workers are meager compared to what Illinois pays, so insurers can fund them with less money.

“Illinois is just more employee-friendly and not employer-friendly,” says Stephanie Wilson, vice president of Les Wilson. She says she’s been trying for 20 years to persuade her husband, Bob Wilson, to move his third-generation company to Indiana.

Yup.

CHICAGO WORKERS COMP AND THE MUNICIPAL CODE

So I decided to actually look at the Chicago Municipal Code, and find out just what part the workers comp fund pops up.

Here’s Chicago Municipal Code Section 2-152-420 and following:

ARTICLE V. BUREAU OF WORKMAN’S COMPENSATION (2-152-420 et seq.)

2-152-420 Establishment – Statutory authority. There is hereby established the bureau of workmen’s compensation of the city for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of an act approved June 28, 1913, and in force July 1, 1913, entitled “An Act to promote the general welfare of the people of this state by providing compensation for accidental injuries or death suffered in the course of employment within this state, and without this state where the contract of employment is made within this state; providing for the enforcement and administering thereof, and a penalty for its violation, and repealing an act entitled `An Act to promote the general welfare of the people of this state by providing compensation for accidental injuries or death suffered in the course of employment,’ approved June 10, 1911, in force May 1, 1912”, as subsequently amended, and for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of an act approved March 16, 1936, in force October 1, 1936, entitled “An Act to promote the general welfare of the people of this state by providing remedies for injuries suffered or death resulting from occupational diseases incurred in the course of employment; providing for enforcement and administration thereof, and to repeal an act and a part of a certain act herein named.”
(Prior code § 25-38)

2-152-430 Bureau personnel. The bureau of workmen’s compensation shall be composed of such persons as may be designated or appointed by the chairman of the committee on finance.
(Prior code § 25-39)

2-152-440 Payment of compensation. The comptroller is hereby authorized to pay, from any fund appropriated for the purpose of said bureau, vouchers to be approved by the chairman of the committee on finance upon the recommendation of said bureau to any person, or in case of his death, to his personal representative, such sum of money as such person or his personal representative shall from time to time be entitled to under and by virtue of the provisions of said acts described in Section 2-152-420.
(Prior code § 25-40)

2-152-450 Payment of medical expenses. The comptroller is hereby authorized to pay from such sum of money so appropriated, on vouchers approved as aforesaid, all lawful charges for necessary first aid, medical, surgical and hospital services as shall be required by any person under and by virtue of and subject to the limitations contained in said acts of the general assembly described in Section 2-152-420, and all other charges and expenses necessary to safeguard the interests of the city in carrying out the provisions of said acts.
(Prior code § 25-41)

It mentions “prior code”, using very different numbering. But the latest dates mentioned in the code text itself are in 1936, and I believe this part of the code hasn’t been revised since then, given what I’ve seen in other bits of the code that have been revised in the past 50 years.

So that lets Burke off the hook, given he didn’t become an alderman until 1969….and he was born in 1943 (wait a sec… he became an alderman when he was 25?!).

From Burke’s Wiki article:

Burke succeeded his father in local politics, first as Democratic Committeeman and then as alderman from the 14th Ward.7 After the elder Burke died in office of cancer on May 11, 1968,15 Edward Burke took leave from his job as a policeman to replace his father as Democratic committeeman for the 14th Ward.16 Though not a precinct captain, Burke won election to his father’s committeeman seat in a secret vote of 65 precinct captains, defeating a veteran precinct captain by just 3½ votes.79 At 24, Burke was the youngest person in Chicago’s history to become a ward committeeman,917 a position he has held ever since.

So he was elected at age 24, and was in office at age 25.

I mean, he had been getting away with it for fifty years! How dare anybody question his right to all this money?

(Yes, he has only been the head of the Committee of Finance for only 33 years or so, but who’s counting?)

OLDER COVERAGE

So, there’s lots of juicy stuff re: Burke and Worker’s Comp. Last year, a pro se lawsuit was filed, but there is history going back farther than that.

To keep this to a reasonable amount, I restricted my search to the last 10 years (and I’m using a news database).

First, the old stuff, covering 2012-2016.

August 2012: Inspector general tries to impose oversight… Burke says nuh-uh

The watchdog isn’t welcome: Inspector general denied records of $100 million city program

Every so often, it seems to us, it behooves the city and its taxpayers to take a good look at the administration of a program that shells out $100 million a year in disability payments to government workers who have been hurt on the job.

That’s well within the job description of Chicago’s executive inspector general Joseph Ferguson. But Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, won’t let Ferguson see the records of the city’s self-managed, self-insured workers’ compensation program. Burke says Ferguson lacks jurisdiction because “ministerial support” for the program is provided by the City Council’s Finance Committee, which Burke chairs.
….
The council did not envision the legislative inspector general reviewing city programs for waste and inefficiency. To be blunt, it did not envision the legislative inspector general doing much of anything.

The position was created in May 2010 by aldermen who were under pressure, in the wake of repeated scandals, to at least pretend they had some sort of oversight.

Eighteen months later, the first legislative inspector general, Faisal Khan, was hired by the people he’s supposed to oversee. He can’t open an investigation without permission from the famously idle Chicago Board of Ethics. He was given no staff and a meager budget.

…..
If we understand Burke’s position, though, the executive inspector general can’t audit the disability program because it falls under the jurisdiction of the legislative inspector general, who can’t audit the program, either. How convenient.

You’d think Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have something to say about all of this, and he did, sort of. He said this week he’s focused on finding savings in work comp and everybody should “work together” to resolve the jurisdictional dispute.

What he didn’t say, but should have, is that the taxpayers have a right to know whether the disability program is being administered effectively and that Burke should hand over those records pronto. A city program that spends $100 million a year with no oversight is asking for trouble.

Hmmmm.

August 2012: Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Finance Committee

A federal grand jury has demanded that a City Council committee led by a powerful alderman turn over records related to a program that last year alone paid out $115 million to disabled city workers, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

Prosecutors sent subpoenas to the Finance Committee long led by Ald. Edward Burke, 14th. The Aug. 3 request asks for access to a host of records related to the “duty disability” program.

The subpoenas were issued about one week after city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, a former federal prosecutor, announced that Burke’s committee had rebuffed his attempts to obtain many of the same records.

Not sure if anything ever came of that. Looks like nothing happened.

March 2015: Rahm’s rule: Aldermen get a pass

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel were serious about reforming city government, he would have followed through on a threat he murmured in 2011 to nudge Ald. Ed Burke out as Finance Committee chairman and strip him of his hopped-up, Secret Service-style security detail that ferries him around town, earpieces and all.

Emanuel indicated during a candidate debate four years ago that he would take on Burke’s boss-hood at City Hall. Instead, Emanuel took the conciliatory path. He ceded control of the Finance Committee to its longtime overlord and shrunk, but didn’t eliminate, Burke’s contingent of bodyguards.

Emanuel’s approach with Burke is symbolic of his iron and velvet fist with the City Council. Emanuel will do the necessary squeezing to get his own priorities through, but he generally prefers to sit on the sidelines when good government ordinances languish in committee — or don’t get taken up at all. Emanuel hasn’t used his bully pulpit to break a stalemate among aldermen on appointing an independent financial officer. The council is still stuck in the mud on whether Inspector General Joe Ferguson should be given the authority to investigate aldermen.

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The committee chairmen who primarily oversee budgeting — Burke and Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin — bear some responsibility for Chicago’s credit rating circling the drain. Moody’s Investors Service dropped it to Baa2 in February, two notches above junk status, because of the city’s pension debt and heavy reliance on borrowing.

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Ferguson has exposed in several audits waste and inefficiency throughout city government. No hearings have been held to explore those findings. When Ferguson tried to analyze the city’s expensive workers’ compensation program following news stories of egregious abuses, Burke blocked his access.

There has been no sense of urgency about the city’s financial distress.

None.

Who could nudge the council in the right direction? The next mayor.

Of course, Rahm Emanuel did win that race. But he’s not running this year.

February 2016: Aldermen, grow a spine: Don’t let the old guard cripple your inspector ordinance

Chicago’s workers’ compensation program shells out $100 million a year in disability payments to government workers who are hurt on the job. That’s a lot of money, and taxpayers deserve to know whether the program is being administered correctly. They don’t.

Do Chicago aldermen think that’s OK?

….
A working committee was quickly formed to consider changes to the ordinance. Why? More than 30 aldermen were ready to vote yes, supposedly. Why weaken the measure to placate two dissenters?

One of those dissenters is Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, whose son resigned his $72,000-a-year job with the Department of Streets and Sanitation after Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office found that he’d crashed a city vehicle while driving on a suspended license and allegedly tried to cover it up.

The other is Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, chairman of the Finance Committee, which administers that workers’ comp program. Burke has insisted that Ferguson lacks jurisdiction to audit the fund because it’s managed by the legislative branch.

A separate inspector general who’s supposed to oversee the legislative branch, meanwhile, lacks the authority to conduct routine audits. That’s not an accident.

…..
If the defectors have their way, Ferguson will be empowered to investigate alleged misconduct by aldermen and their staffs, but he won’t be allowed to conduct performance audits of City Council programs.

Let’s be clear: That would gut the ordinance. It would leave the City Council with far less oversight than the rest of city government.

That $100-million-a-year disability fund and all sorts of other programs would continue to operate in the dark.

Why would aldermen allow that? Because they’ve become convinced that Ferguson would come snooping into how they spend their meager allowances for neighborhood improvements.

Each alderman gets $1.32 million a year in discretionary “menu money.” Many aldermen make those decisions with input from constituents, under the “participatory budgeting” process started by Ald. Joe Moore, 49th. But in the end, it’s the alderman’s call, and there will always be people who are unhappy that their block didn’t get new sidewalks and the next block did.

February 2016: The aldermen who chumped you: $100 million a year. No oversight.

We have some questions for the 25 aldermen who voted Wednesday to gut the ordinance assigning oversight of the City Council to Inspector General Joe Ferguson.

What assurances can you give taxpayers that the $100 million-a-year workers’ compensation fund is being managed correctly? What safeguards are in place to prevent waste, fraud or abuse?

Can you vouch for how that money is being spent?

We certainly hope so, because you just voted to allow the program, run by Ald. Ed Burke’s Finance Committee, to continue to operate in the dark.

You did it on purpose, carving out workers’ comp and all other legislative programs from the much stronger ordinance that dozens of you had pledged to support. You chickened out. Why? Because you convinced each other that if the inspector general had the authority to audit programs controlled by aldermen, he’d waste his time second-guessing your decisions about which potholes get filled in your wards.

That was an actual argument made by Ald. Danny Solis, 25th, as he urged his colleagues to vote to water down the ordinance.

Solis, Solis… why is that name so familiar….

Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, and Ald. John Arena, 45th, offer one suggestion: In a resolution filed shortly after Wednesday’s vote, they called for hearings to consider putting the city’s Law Department in charge of workers’ compensation claims, “in keeping with the modern legal practice.”

Managing those claims isn’t a legislative function in the first place. The workers’ comp program covers employees throughout city government, not just in the City Council.

In their resolution, Waguespack and Arena point out that the bureau of workers’ compensation has been housed in the Finance Committee since 1913.

That arrangement shields the program from oversight, inviting inefficiency and abuse, the resolution says. It also “creates cynicism among the taxpaying public, undermining trust in the government of the City of Chicago and in this body.”

No kidding. Those cynical Chicagoans aren’t buying aldermen’s attempts to pitch the vote as an ethical triumph.

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Once again, here is Wednesday’s vote of the Chicago City Council. A ‘Yea’ vote is the cynical, self-interested vote to shield the aldermen from the scrutiny of the inspector general and, in turn, the scrutiny of the voters:

Yeas (25): Brian Hopkins, 2nd; Will Burns, 4th; Leslie Hairston, 5th; Roderick Sawyer, 6th; Gregory Mitchell, 7th; Michelle Harris, 8th; Anthony Beale, 9th; Patrick Thompson, 11th; George Cardenas, 12th; Edward Burke, 14th; Raymond Lopez, 15th; David Moore, 17th; Derrick Curtis, 18th; Howard Brookins, 21st; Ricardo Munoz, 22nd; Daniel Solis, 25th; Walter Burnett, 27th; Jason Ervin, 28th; Ariel Reboyras, 30th; Gilbert Villegas, 36th; Emma Mitts, 37th; Margaret Laurino, 39th; Patrick O’Connor, 40th; Thomas Tunney, 44th; Joseph Moore, 49th.

Nays (23): Proco Joe Moreno, 1st; Pat Dowell, 3rd; Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th; Marty Quinn, 13th; Toni Foulkes, 16th; Matthew O’Shea, 19th; Willie Cochran, 20th; Michael Zalewski, 23rd; Michael Scott Jr., 24th; Chris Taliaferro, 29th; Milagros “Milly” Santiago, 31st; Scott Waguespack, 32nd; Deborah Mell, 33rd; Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th; Nicholas Sposato, 38th; Anthony Napolitano, 41st; Brendan Reilly, 42nd; Michele Smith, 43rd; John Arena, 45th; James Cappleman, 46th; Ameya Pawar, 47th; Harry Osterman, 48th; Debra Silverstein, 50th.

Absent (2): Roberto Maldonado, 26th; Carrie Austin, 34th.

One should look very closely at those names.

LAWSUIT AND MORE

In the summer of 2018, two people who have had a long-standing dispute re: the Chicago Workers Compensation Fund filed a pro se lawsuit.

First, the Lawsuit filed against Rahm Emanuel re: lack of oversight of Workers Comp program can be found there… there are blanks there, but it looks like it really was filed in July 2018.

Because here is some news coverage – Lawsuit: City rules allow Ald. Burke to turn Chicago Workers Comp office into patronage ‘army’

Saying the mayor’s refusal to wrest control of the city’s workers compensation division has allowed Chicago’s most powerful alderman to turn the office into a political patronage “army,” giving preferential treatment to loyal city workers, a lawsuit brought by a city worker who helped expose the Hired Trucks scandal has asked a federal judge to declare unconstitutional Ald. Ed Burke’s management of the office that handles Chicago city workers’ workers comp claims, and force Mayor Rahm Emanuel to oversee operations there, despite city rules delegating the task to Burke.

On July 30, plaintiff Patrick McDonough, who works in the city’s water department, filed suit in Chicago federal court on his own behalf, along with citizen activist Jay Stone, of Pleasant Prairie, Wis., alleging the arrangement created by Chicago city code, giving the chairman of the city’s Finance Committee control of the city’s workers comp division violates Illinois law, the Illinois state constitution and U.S. Constitution, by improperly giving control of an executive office function to a member of the legislative branch.
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According to the complaint, McDonough took note of the alleged arrangement when the city allegedly mismanaged his workers comp claims. According to the complaint, the correspondence regarding that claim was sent by a Burke employee identified as Monica Somerville, a former top assistant Chicago city attorney whose name had appeared on so-called “City of Chicago Clout List,” uncovered by the FBI during its investigation of job rigging in city departments.

Somerville had been fired by the city’s Law Department “for incompetence” less than 18 months after she was first hired, according to the complaint. She then attempted to sue the city for “racial discrimination and sexual harassment,” the complaint noted.

Yet, despite her problematic history, Somerville was hired by Burke, ostensibly as a legislative aide. Yet, in correspondence with McDonough, the complaint said she identified herself as “Director of Workers Compensation,” a title claim the complaint asserts is false.

The complaint alleges Burke has also used such hiring patterns to fill other staff positions at the workers comp, hiring “political appointees who lacked the requisite workers’ compensation education and experience,” including employees whose prior work experience was “as a dog groomer, dog walker, hairstylist, waitress, and other jobs unrelated to the administration of Workers’ Compensation.”

Here are two editorials/op-eds that ran in August 2018: Chicago workers’ comp: $100 million a year, but no oversight – Chicago Tribune editorial about that lawsuit; It’s time to put compensation for injured city workers in the city’s hands – Rachel Leven op-ed in Crain’s Chicago, referencing the lawsuit.

Given the timing of Solis’s wire, and the takedown of Burke (as well as the specific charges against Burke), it doesn’t seem that any of the workers comp fund issues are part of the current criminal complaint.

MORE TO COME: ALL ARE CONNECTED

I look forward to whatever the forensic audit finds re: the workers compensation program…but given when Rahm Emanuel announced it, it will probably not be finished by the time the end-of-February mayoral election happens.

However, if nobody gets a majority in the February election (which seems likely given how many people are runningand how people are polling), I bet the audit will be ready by the April 2 run-off date.

And just who has Burke (and Solis) ties?

via GIPHY

Politics in Illinois, Chicago rotten but entertaining

There’s little doubt that the state of Illinois holds a special rank when it comes to public corruption.

But the state’s noxious politics pales in comparison to that of Chicago, the city of big shoulders and even bigger crooks.

….
The whole sickening mess is dispiriting — with one major exception.

It sure is fun to watch the politicians run for cover when the federal bloodhounds hit the trail.
….
There’s more. This week, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Alderman Daniel Solis, at the behest of the FBI, wore a wire to tape-record his conversations with Burke and maybe others.

Chicago aldermen are not the most public-spirited citizens. So Solis was probably not motivated by a desire to clean up politics in Chicago.

The much better theory is that Solis was caught with his hands in the cookie jar and then persuaded by the feds to help himself by ensnaring more serious wrongdoers, like Burke.

That theory got strong support when Chicago television news reported that Solis agreed in 2014 to wear a wire on Burke after one of Solis’ associates wore a wire to implicate him in the alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Honor among thieves? Don’t count on it — at least not in Chicago.
….
Further enriching the discussion is that the investigation is taking place in the middle of a mayoral race — Feb. 26 is primary day — in which Burke’s support once was widely solicited.

Now mayoral candidates, like Preckwinkle and state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, are trying to separate themselves from Burke. Or, as Tribune columnist John Kass put it, they’re trying to “wipe the Burke off their shoes.”

Can’t say I feel sorry for any of them. They knew the deal when they decided to go into Chicago politics.

That’s for the next post.


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