On heels of Burke scandal, Ald. O’Connor slams critics of wife’s real-estate deals
On the heels of Burke scandal, new finance committee chair Pat O’Connor fights back against critics of wife’s real-estate deals
The new chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee on Friday angrily denied that he has a conflict of interest involving his wife’s thriving career as a real estate agent that should prevent him from assuming the job vacated by embattled Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) is the Finance Committee vice chairman who assumed the chairmanship that Burke relinquished last week, one day after a federal complaint accused Burke of shaking down a Burger King owner for legal business and for a $10,000 campaign contribution to Toni Preckwinkle.
The City Council’s Progressive Caucus favors its chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), citing conflicts posed by the fact that Barbara O’Connor has sold real estate after zoning changes authorized by her husband.
On Friday, O’Connor confronted those allegations head-on.
He argued that there has “never been a zoning change in our community that was done for the benefit of my spouse” even though she may have been involved after the fact.
The site of the shuttered Edgewater Hospital was a classic example.
Hospital parking lots were rezoned — from business to residential. More than a year later, the lots were sold to a developer whose architect had worked with Barbara O’Connor “many times and used her company to help them sell” the single-family homes, the alderman said.
“Unless I was clairvoyant and I knew, over a year out, that the successful bidder would come along and hire a company that my wife worked for, that’s just nonsense” to say it’s a conflict, said O’Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader.
“In this day and age where women are entitled to their own livelihood, that’s what the rules state. That law exists and we followed it. And every time there was even a potential for conflict, I went to the ethics board. . . . It was determined whether there was a conflict or not and [we] acted appropriately.”
O’Connor bristled when asked whether it would have been “better or more pristine” if he had simply told his wife not to sell real estate in the 40th Ward for which he had approved a zoning change.
“I should have probably said, ‘Stay home. Be barefoot. Be in the kitchen because I’m the man. I work outside the home. You work inside the home,’ ” he said sarcastically.
“You take . . . one of the best in the business in the city of Chicago and you say, ‘Sublimate your ability to succeed for mine.’ If my wife sells a single family home in Chicago — whether it’s in my ward or not — she’s entitled.”
Demands for Waguespack to assume the Finance Committee chairmanship have a hollow ring, O’Connor said.
“They all voted for Ed Burke to be the Finance chairman. All of them. Ed Burke wasn’t installed by the mayor. [He] was installed by a vote
BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL REPORTER