Shortly before FBI agents raided the offices of Ald. Edward M. Burke, they knocked on the door of the alderman’s top political aide, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
The FBI showed up at Peter Andrews Jr.’s home in Mount Greenwood around 7 a.m. on Nov. 29.
That was about 90 minutes before they seized control of Burke’s City Hall suite of offices, dismissed his staff and covered the windows with brown butcher paper. The agents also raided the alderman’s political headquarters, the 14th Ward office at 2650 W. 51st St., where Andrews helps run Burke’s political operation.
Nearly two weeks after federal agents raided Burke’s offices, it’s unclear why they took such a public action, removing boxes of documents and at least one computer.
They had search warrants for Burke’s offices, but there was no search warrant served on Andrews, according to sources.
Andrews, 69, didn’t respond to messages left for him at his home and at Burke’s ward office.
Burke, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, remained silent Monday when a Sun-Times reporter asked him about the FBI’s visit to Andrews’ home.
Andrews, a retired plumber with the Chicago Park District, has spent decades working for Burke’s political organization. He helped circulate petitions to get Burke on the ballot in February, when he is being challenged for re-election by four opponents, all Hispanics, seeking to end his 50-year reign in the city council, the longest in Chicago history.
Over the years, Burke has relied on Andrews to file legal challenges contesting petitions candidates have filed to run for judgeships and even the Democratic committeeman of the 14th Ward, a position the alderman also holds. In all of those cases, the candidates either were thrown off the ballot for not having enough valid signatures to get on it, or they ended their campaigns.
Andrews is the chairman of two of Burke’s three campaign funds, which total a combined $12 million — money the alderman has raised from companies that have gotten business from City Hall, some that also have hired his law firm, Klafter & Burke, to challenge their real estate assessments, seeking to lower their property tax bills.
Burke has paid Andrews more than $100,000 since 2001 to serve as a political consultant, according to records the alderman has filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Fourteen years ago, Andrews and his wife, Ginger, got caught up in the scandal over the city’s Hired Truck Program under which the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley spent $40 million a year to hire dump trucks that often ended up doing no work on city construction projects.
Ginger Andrews was listed as co-owner of Base Trucking along with Carmel McGuire, whose husband worked for the Chicago Park District with Pete Andrews.
Base Trucking, the largest female-owned company in the Hired Truck Program, was paid more than $3.4 million by City Hall between 1999 and early 2004. That’s when a Sun-Times investigation led to a wide-ranging federal investigation that sent 48 people to prison — including city employees who were taking bribes from trucking companies paid to do nothing.
The owners of Base Trucking were never charged with any crime. But the company was suspended from the Hired Truck Program, with Daley saying it should have disclosed its connections to Burke, a political rival of the Daley family.
Livid with Daley, Burke responded at the time: “These nice women founded a business. They’re 110 percent legitimate. They’ve done nothing wrong, as far as I know. That’s it. Period. PERIOD.”
Daley’s then-City Hall inspector general Alexander Vroustouris later determined that Base actually was run by Peter Andrews and his partner John McGuire, who put the company in the names of their wives so they could win government contracts set aside for women-owned businesses.
Contributing: Carlos Ballesteros