Indicted former Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) will collect an annual city taxpayer-funded pension of more than $96,000, even as he awaits trial on federal corruption charges, according to records obtained by WTTW News.
Burke, 79, who did not seek a 15th term on the Chicago City Council, left office after 54 years on May 15.
When he stepped down, Burke was the longest serving member of the City Council, earning more than $120,408 annually.
Burke will start receiving pension payments of $8,027 per month in sometime in August, and they will continue for the rest of his life, according to records obtained by WTTW News from the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago.
Burke is set to stand trial on Nov. 6 on 14 counts alleging the powerful politician repeatedly — and brazenly — used his elected office to force those doing business with the city to hire his private law firm. Burke has pleaded not guilty, and used millions of dollars of stockpiled campaign cash to fund his defense.
If Burke is convicted on those charges, he could lose his pension, since his conduct occurred as part of his official duties as an alderperson.
Despite strong rhetoric from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other top state officials demanding public pension funds divest more than $100 million in Russia-based assets, state lawmakers now say they won’t act until the Fall veto session.
A key legislative proposal to force the pullout in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine died in a Senate committee awaiting a vote.
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, declined to be interviewed for this report, but his staff suggested the Senate had too little time before the session closed on April 9. The House bill — which passed by a vote of 114-0 on April 5 — was never taken up in the Senate chamber.
Using pension investment decisions as a way to prompt social change has long been controversial. In the past, Illinois funds have divested from companies and funds related to Sudan, Iran and businesses that boycott Israel following direction from lawmakers.
The Illinois State Board of Investments creates a prohibited list of companies for the funds to consider. The most recent list does not contain companies or funds connected to the Russian invasion.
“How, as a society, should we think about our pension systems assets?” Amanda Kass, Associate Director of the Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois – Chicago, asked. “I also see this kind of scrutiny of investing in Russian assets as part of this larger movement.”