Burke’s law practice clients were getting property tax breaks…and guess who else?

The powerful alderman and property tax attorney won questionable reductions on his home and office

Feb.February 08, 2019 09:00 AM

Ed Burke and his house at West 51st Street (Credit: Wikipedia and Google Maps)

Facing charges of extortion for trying to win business for his property tax law firm, Alderman Ed Burke’s ability to cut the property assessments for his home and office have now come under scrutiny.

Burke appealed for a lower assessment in October 2017, but used properties a fraction of his 5,600-square-foot Southwest Side home as comparable homes, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The office of then-County Assessor Joe Berrios agreed to reduce Burke’s assessment on the home, despite the differences in property size, saving the alderman $1,000 in taxes.

Burke, who makes a living winning property tax breaks for his clients, also won a reduced assessment on his Southwest Side office while offering no comparable office property. That move saved him nearly $500 in taxes. He already pays 60 percent less in taxes for the office building than other commercial property owners do because it’s classified as residential, thanks to the apartments above.

Berrios could not be reached for comment, and a representative of current Assessor Fritz Kaegi, said there was no explanation for why Burke won the tax breaks.

“We don’t have any information about why the previous administration lowered this assessment,” Kaegi spokesman Scott Smith told the Sun-Times. “It does not make any sense to us why it was lowered.”

The current criminal charges against Burke are the result of a federal investigation of colleague Alderman Danny Solis, who agreed to be an FBI mole. Solis recorded Burke trying to win law business from a restaurant owner who needed a city permit.

Solis also recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan pitching his property tax law firm to a developer, though Madigan has not been charged with any crime. [Chicago Sun-Times] — John O’Brien

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