Hero or zero? Solis hopes history treats him kindly for helping feds in probe
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Ald. Danny Solis (25th) has told associates he hopes to someday be hailed as a hero for any part he played in bringing down Chicago’s power structure and helping unravel one of the biggest political scandals this city has seen in decades.
But first, he was forced to have a painful conversation with his wife and children about the allegations that precipitated his extraordinary decision to spend two years secretly recording more than a dozen conversations with former Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), as movers-and-shakers sought city action, a source familiar with the matter said.
Solis’ conversation with his family happened after the Chicago Sun-Times called Solis recently to ask about the explosive information contained in an affidavit for a search warrant of his City Hall offices.
The document accused the powerful chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee of getting sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey for his son’s graduation party and a steady stream of campaign contributions.
Solis, 69, has not returned calls and has gone underground after the Sun-Times first reported he secretly recorded conversations for the feds as part of the criminal investigation of Burke.
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The affidavit portrays Solis as deeply in debt, hounded by creditors and constantly on the prowl.
The prostitution allegations — a betrayal of his wife and a bitter disappointment to his children — were the most difficult part of the conversation Solis had with the family, the source familiar with the matter said.
The feds had him under surveillance when, on three occasions, they watched him come and go from massage parlors. They also tapped his cellphone and listened to conversations arranging those trysts and describing his affinity for Asian women.
The massage parlor visits were allegedly paid for by a political operative seeking city favors, the federal document says.
The rest of the allegations, Solis firmly believes he could have beaten if he had been charged, the source said.
For example, Solis was prepared to argue that one of the individuals he allegedly did favors for, developer Fred Latsko, was a friend with whom he had traveled.
When Latsko offered free weekend use of his Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey for a graduation party for the alderman’s son, Solis believes he had no way of knowing that Latsko had rented out the farm to others and that Solis should, therefore, have reimbursed Latsko, the source said.
The affidavit discusses how Elgin Sweeping Services had sought Solis help with a break from its city water bill. The source said Solis was prepared to argue that he intervened as he would have for any other company or constituent.
Ultimately, Solis decided to cooperate with the feds because he was afraid the massage parlor trips alone would cost him his aldermanic pension along with his reputation, the source said.
Cooperation offered a side benefit for the alderman.
Sources said Solis has long harbored a grudge against Burke for the role he played in taking control of the United Neighborhood Organization away from Solis and essentially handing it over to Juan Rangel, long before Rangel was forced out in a spending scandal.
Solis started as a schoolteacher in the 1980s, organizing several Latino community groups and co-founding UNO.
The clout-heavy group subsequently came under fire for using a $98 million state school grant to hire contractors with ties to UNO executives, which Solis called “improper, at the very least” in 2013.
Cooperating against Burke gave Solis the rare chance to possibly stay out of prison himself, preserve his aldermanic pension and settle a score with Burke.
Last week, Solis’ City Council colleagues said they felt betrayed by Solis’ two-year stint as an undercover FBI mole.
But Solis firmly believes that, if the role he played helps clean out a corrupt system, perhaps his dream of being hailed as the hero will come true, the source said.