Illinois Supreme Court Justice Faces Complaint Over Preckwinkle Political Event

Justice Anne Burke
Justice Anne Burke seen here at WBEZ studios in 2018. Jason Marck/WBEZ
Justice Anne Burke
Justice Anne Burke seen here at WBEZ studios in 2018. Jason Marck/WBEZ

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Faces Complaint Over Preckwinkle Political Event

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Days before the Chicago election, a complaint was filed Friday against Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke over a fundraiser at her home for mayoral contender Toni Preckwinkle.

After federal authorities last month charged the justice’s husband, 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, with attempted extortion, Preckwinkle told the Chicago Tribune that it was Anne Burke who “offered to help” arrange the 2018 fundraiser at the Burkes’ home on the Southwest Side.

Now, those comments are at the center of the complaint filed with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board by Jeff Orr, the son of former Cook County Clerk David Orr. Jeff Orr says Anne Burke broke the code of conduct for Illinois judges if she did, in fact, organize the Preckwinkle fundraiser. 

“Either Justice Burke violated the code or Toni Preckwinkle is not being truthful,” Orr wrote in the complaint.

Jeff Orr told WBEZ he does not support any candidate in Tuesday’s mayoral election, but his father has endorsed Preckwinkle rival Lori Lightfoot.

And Preckwinkle’s campaign accused Jeff Orr of being a Lightfoot supporter, too. 

“This is pure politics from a supporter of one of Toni’s political opponents the weekend before the election,” the campaign said in a statement Friday. “The details of the event have been known for several months. But now, a couple of days before the election, this supporter of millionaire corporate attorney Lori Lightfoot files a claim. Why?”

A spokesman for Anne Burke declined to comment on the complaint because it is pending.

Preckwinkle has sought to distance herself from the Burkes since the federal corruption case was filed against Ed Burke in early January. She returned $116,000 that was raised for her re-election to Cook County Board president last year at the event held at the Burkes’ home.

In federal court records, prosecutors say Ed Burke muscled a political contribution for Preckwinkle from the owner of a fast-food place in Burke’s ward. 

Ed Burke has denied wrongdoing. He is accused of holding up permits for the restaurant in an attempt to force the owner of the Burger King outlet to hire his private law firm to appeal his property taxes.

Preckwinkle has sought to play down her ties to Ed Burke. But her official calendar suggests she had a close relationship with both Burkes.

Preckwinkle had 34 meetings with Anne Burke in the last four years, according to her official calendar, which WBEZ obtained this week through a Freedom of Information Act request. Many of those meetings were about Preckwinkle’s criminal-justice reform efforts.

Preckwinkle had 10 meetings with the alderman in the last four years. That total includes six one-on-one meetings in Preckwinkle’s office and another such meeting at a restaurant near City Hall.

The records show Preckwinkle also was a guest of the Burkes at a dinner at their home with Chicago’s Roman Catholic cardinal, Blase Cupich, in April 2015.

The last meeting between Preckwinkle and Burke, according to the documents, was in October, when Preckwinkle was a guest of the alderman and his wife at a benefit dinner for epilepsy research at Navy Pier.

Preckwinkle’s official schedule also states that she planned to “Ask Sam Sax about Travis Burke” at a Public Buildings Commission meeting in April 2016. Sax is a member of the commission and Travis Burke is the adopted, adult son of Ed and Anne Burke.

Sax told WBEZ this week he had no recollection of any conversation with Preckwinkle regarding Travis Burke.

The spokeswoman for the County Board president could not immediately comment on those entries in her calendar.

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ. Follow him at @dmihalopoulos.