Two companies offering giant real estate projects in Chicago have fired law firm Ald. Edward Burke – Just weeks after federal prosecutors accused him of attempting to extort cases for his private practice.
The companies are Sterling Bay, the developer of the $ 5 billion Lincoln Yards project in the Near North Side, and Related Midwest, which plans to build a $ 7 billion development called “The 78” in the South Loop.
Both were among the many homeowners who took on the Klafter & Burke firm to appeal their property taxes, with Burke pocketing a slice of whatever he can save them.
A spokeswoman for Related Midwest told WBEZ on Thursday that the company “is no longer engaged with Klafter & Burke,” but would not say exactly when those ties were severed.
And a spokeswoman for Sterling Bay said the development company had “fired” Klafter & Burke as lawyers due to “recent events.”
It was a clear reference to the corruption case filed against Burke, the long 14e The alderman of the parish, in federal court here on January 3.
Burke is accused of trying to shake up the owners of a Burger King in his Southwest Side neighborhood to hire his company to appeal their property taxes. Prosecutors allege he used his influence at city hall to delay a renovation project when restaurateurs failed to hire him for property tax work.
Burke said he had done nothing wrong, but quickly resigned as chairman of the council’s finance committee. He still plans to run in the municipal elections on February 26.
The case against Burke has rocked town hall – where he has held tremendous power for 50 years – and next month’s mayoral race.
And now, business interests are trying to act quickly to ensure that the Burke scandal does not also mar their two very ambitious development plans. The proposals are part of four major developments aimed at sharing in a $ 1.5 billion grant proposal pending before the aldermen.
Sterling Bay is fighting to gain support for its transformation plans from a large part of Chicago’s Near North Side.
Lincoln Yards’ proposal targets 70 acres of industrial land along the Chicago River.
But the project has met with furious opposition from residents of the Bucktown and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. And he has still to win Ald’s crucial support. Brian Hopkins (2sd Room).
“Sterling Bay owns nearly 50 properties throughout the Chicagoland area and we work with nearly a dozen different tax advisers on tax matters,” Company spokesperson Sarah Hamilton said in a statement. “We had used the services of Klafter & Burke on a limited number of our properties, but given recent events, we have terminated the use of their services.”
Midwest Related’s plans are so grandiose the developers say the project would amount to creating the 78e district.
The proposal, which covers 62 acres along the Chicago River south of the Loop, obtained zoning approval for 10,000 new homes, but still seeking $ 500 million in city tax increase funding.
The Midwest Related spokeswoman said Klafter & Burke was one of three different law firms working to help lower the company’s property tax bills.
Many of Burke’s private law clients are interested in the legislation before the Board. For years, Burke has revealed to have dozens of clients who do business with the city.
WBEZ and the Better Government Association reported last month that Burke had abstained from voting 464 times in the past eight years, under a rule that allows aldermen to recuse themselves when they have a conflict of interest.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative journalist for WBEZ. Follow him on @dmihalopoulos.