A mixture of surprise, anger and disappointment from City Council members Wednesday in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times report stating longtime Ald. Danny Solis wore a wire to assist the federal investigation into Ald. Ed Burke.
The story sent shock waves through Wednesday’s City Council meeting, at which Solis was noticeably absent. The 25th Ward alderman, who is not seeking re-election, is reported to have recorded more than a dozen conversations with Burke over the last two years. Like Burke, Solis has been a powerful, longtime alderman. He is the former head of the Hispanic Democratic organization and longtime chair of City Council’s Zoning Committee.
Aldermen seemed resigned to the fact that people tend to cooperate in this manner when they’re in hot water themselves. (Carol Marin reports that Solis has been under federal investigation since 2014.)
Wednesday’s meeting was also notable because it was the first since Burke was formally charged with attempted extortion. Gone were his security guards and his customary perch at the center of the floor. Instead, Burke quietly took his new seat at the end of the first row, interacting with few alderman. Reporters chased Burke to get his reaction to the Sun-Times story; he reiterated that he believes he’s done nothing wrong.
“And anything that Ald. Solis recorded, if he did, isn’t going to make any difference,” Burke said. “If he did (record me), I don’t know.”
When asked if he would drop out of his aldermanic race, Burke responded: “Not only am I running, I’m going to win.”
Some of Burke and Solis’ colleagues expressed dismay the report, suggesting Solis stabbed his fellow council members in the back. Ald. Carrie Austin shook her head and said, “You just don’t do that,” as if there was some unwritten code of silence between aldermen. Others expressed confidence that, while they might be caught on recordings, they haven’t done anything wrong.
“Like Roosevelt said, you have nothing to fear but fear itself,” said Ald. George Cardenas. “If you’ve done nothing wrong and grind it out like many of us do, then you have nothing to worry about. I come from the military. I was honorably discharged. It was a proud moment for my family. I will leave here honorably discharged.”
Others in City Council, meanwhile, expressed sorrow at the whole situation.
“I’m disappointed that he let down his community,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), who is the head of City Council’s Latino Caucus. “The simple fact that he was in that position means he was compromised, and that lets down his community.”
News of the report came, coincidentally, as City Council took up the topic of ethics reform, with the mayor and several aldermen introducing various proposals. Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed strengthening the rules allowing aldermen to recuse themselves from votes because of possible conflicts of interest; and a ban on aldermen working for any entity that could be a party to any legal conflict with the city (i.e., a ban on serving as a property tax lawyer).
When asked why he stopped short of a full ban on outside employment, Emanuel brought up the example of Ald. Tom Tunney, who owns the restaurant Ann Sather.
“Some people will talk about outright ban,” Emanuel said. “I think the changes I’m proposing will give us diversity with people of different backgrounds and different walks of life.”
Others, including Alds. Michele Smith and Scott Waguespack, introduced ordinances that would beef up the powers of the inspector general, and allow independent financial oversight over budget decisions.
Solis was not immediately available for comment.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz