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

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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

RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES

BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER

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