Chicago City Council Chambers
Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, who represents the 14th Ward, has been accused by the Chicago Tribune editorial board of mishandling millions of dollars in the city’s worker compensation defense program.
Eugene Keefe, a partner at Keefe, Cambell, Biery & Associates, largely agrees with the Tribune’s assessment, based on a 2016 Inspector General report, that the city misspends at least $100 million per year on worker's compensation cost.
Both Keefe and the Tribune suspect that Illinois politicians are using the money to influence their voting block. Although, Keefe said there is one caveat.
Chicago Alderman Ed Burke
“I point out the actual number is basically impossible to discern,” Keefe told the Chicago City Wire. “Some of the money is cloaked in department budgets and some is in general funds. 'Billionaire' Alderman Burke appears to hide it from prying eyes of other aldermen, the mayor and the city’s inspector general. In short, only Ed Burke really knows what he is doing.”
While Burke may not be a billionaire in the true sense of the word, Keefe made it clear that he thinks he's gaming the system.
There are currently more than 3,000 pending worker’s compensation claims filed by city employees, according to Keefe. Yet, no one has been assigned to be the claims manager. Additionally, Keefe notes that the city only employs one defense lawyer to handle all of its claims.
Both the Tribune and Keefe argue that mismanagement within the worker's compensation program has led to overinflated, massive payouts to injured city employees. The worker's compensation defense team lacks the staff to appropriately defend the city from frivolous claims, Keefe said.
“In my view, there is literally no chance, none, that one person could handle such an impossible workload,” Keefe said. “Understaffed defense programs ensure the City of Chicago keeps paying and paying even the most frivolous and unfounded [worker’s compensation] claims.