Ald. Burke and the Case of the $600k Security Detail

The BGA manages to get the total bill for the police detail that the veteran alderman and, uh, Finance Committee chair has had since the Council Wars years. It’s even more than you might have guessed.

The Better Government Association filed a lawsuit to obtain the cost of Ald. Ed Burke’s security detail, and the results are in, at least for 2009: even higher than I would have guessed. It’s the lead story on the Sun-Times right now, and Fox Chicago, which has previously done excellent work in collaboration with the BGA, has a good segment on it, explaining why the bill is so high:

The highest paid of Burke’s bodyguards made, with overtime, about $150,000. That’s slightly less than individual police commanders are budgeted for in the 2011 budget ordinance (PDF). And about a thousand dollars less, ironically, than the budget for the city comptroller.

If you’re new in town, you might be wondering: what? Eric Zorn has a detailed explanation. I’m new in town, too: it goes back to threats that happened during the Beirut on the Lake era, i.e. when I was five years old. Since then, as Zorn puts it, “City Council has been a relatively — even dismayingly — harmonious body since Washington’s death in 1987, and Burke has gone from the lightning rod to the totem pole.”

What can be done? Garry McCarthy’s hands are tied. Chicago mayors have a long history of taking runs at Burke without success. I guess it’s in his constituents’ court, but given that he’s had a detail for 25 years, perhaps they consider his value-over-replacement-alderman worth the extra money.

Related: Carol Felsenthal on the appointment of Burke’s daughter to the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

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