It could be a David versus Goliath legal battle.
A longtime political gadfly and a city worker are suing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and powerful Ald. Ed Burke in federal court.
Burke, the longtime Finance Committee chairman, controls the city’s controversial and obscure $100 million workers’ compensation program, which has come under scrutiny for years. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend that that’s against the law, and that Emanuel should take that job away from Burke.
Burke has repeatedly fought back efforts to oversee the agency that processes disability payouts to injured city workers.
On Monday, a group of city workers gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building. One of them, Patrick McDonough, an injured water department employee who also blew the whistle on the Hired Truck scandal, claims that politics and clout have infected the system.
“You have a politician running a political patronage army on the City Council’s Finance Committee, and it’s time to stop that,” McDonough said.
Citizen activist Jay Stone is also on the lawsuit. He says it’s unconstitutional for a city legislator to be running the program, and that workers’ compensation by law is an executive branch function.
“It creates violations of the separation of powers that is in both the Illinois and United States constitution,” Stone said.
Stone and McDonough are asking a federal judge to force Emanuel to take the program away from Burke and appoint an administrator. They say Burke has hired political workers to run the program.
“Then the mayor will have to hire professionals instead of employees that have backgrounds in dog walking, dog grooming, waitressing, etc.,” Stone said.
The two also contend that the true costs of the workers’ compensation program are hidden in the budget.
“The mayor has talked about transparency, but on such an important matter of revenue expenditures, he has been anything but transparent,” Stone said.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
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