Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.’s missing campaign money, local man gets Virgin Galactic refund after 15 years and more in your Chicago news roundup

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Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th).

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This Veterans Day afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 46 degrees. Tonight will see a chance of flurries and a low near 30. Tomorrow will be cloudy with a chance of snow and a high near 37. Sunday will be sunny with a high near 39.

Top story

Where is Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.’s missing $300,000 in campaign money?

Since 1999, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) has reported investing $375,000 of the $4.2 million in campaign contributions he’s gotten from political supporters — but $300,000 of the invested money has disappeared from his campaign-finance reports, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

Where’s the missing money?

Burnett won’t talk about it. He has declined to answer reporters’ questions about his campaign reports, which he has frequently amended, some of them as many as five times.

The Chicago City Council member says in a text message in response to questions: “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that with you. It’s not my city business.” 

But he says he hasn’t converted any campaign-fund investments into personal income: “Of course, I didn’t cash them into my personal account.”

Nor has he explained where the money went to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which says it has known for several months that Burnett’s campaign fund stopped reporting what it’s done with the invested contributions, which it’s required to do under state law. The state elections board has the authority to fine Burnett’s campaign fund. If it deems the offense bad enough, it also could report any campaign-finance violations to the Illinois attorney general’s office to consider for possible prosecution.

But state elections officials have been talking with Burnett’s campaign aide to determine “where the money is or isn’t,” according to a Nov. 3 email from John Levin of the elections board. “Let me see if there’s a way we can do it without filing 20+ years of amended reports.”

Burnett has more than $733,000 in his Friends of Walter Burnett Jr. campaign fund, according to his most recent campaign report, Sept. 30, in which he reported he has zero investments involving contributions. That $733,000 doesn’t include the missing $300,000 in investments he has reported making with campaign contributions since 1999, when elected officials in Illinois were first required to report any investments made with campaign cash.

Burnett’s two most recent investments were with Wintrust Bank, which holds the mortgage on Burnett’s home. Wintrust also is the landlord of Burnett’s ward office, which is in the same building as the bank’s branch at Madison Street and Western Avenue. His campaign fund has repeatedly corrected errors in previous campaign-finance reports, including, on July 2, 2021, amending 24 quarterly reports covering six years. It said that was to eliminate a duplicate payment of $19,330 made in 2015 to the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Committee, which Burnett heads.

None of the campaign’s amended reports addressed the status of its investments. 

Our Tim Novak and Lauren FitzPatrick have more on the alderman’s finances here.

More news you need

  1. A temporary memorial for the victims of the July 4th shooting in Highland Park opened today, four months after tragedy struck the community. The memorial, at 1707 St. Johns Avenue, is a garden next to city hall and just blocks away from where other temporary memorials were set up by residents in the immediate wake of the shooting.
  2. The principal of a Jewish grade school in West Rogers Park is speaking out, disputing reports that a man boarded a bus yesterday with grade school children on it and yelled anti-semitic slurs. “Nobody came onto the bus, there were no antisemitic slurs,” said Rabbi Nosson Muller, who cited video footage and interviews.
  3. A noose was discovered at the site of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park yesterday morning, according to the group overseeing the center’s construction. Chicago police said they were investigating the incident but didn’t release details.
  4. After years of relative peace, Chicago’s infamous Outlaws Motorcycle Club once again is at war with a rival group, according to cops and bikers. This time, they say, it’s with the Mongol Nation Motorcycle Club, which has been making an incursion into the Outlaws’ Chicago turf, our Frank Main and Robert Herguth report.
  5. Illinois’ top Medicaid contractor has repeatedly failed to deliver basic medical services to thousands of foster children, from dental visits to immunizations to well-being checks, an investigation by Better Government Association’s Illinois Answers Project found. Centene Corp.’s failings have left foster parents to scramble to find health care, wait months for appointments and pay medical expenses out of their own pockets, the investigation revealed.
  6. More than two months after hundreds of immigrants began arriving in Chicago from the southern border, one alderperson is questioning the living conditions and services officials are providing. Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, along with other community members, delivered a letter yesterday to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s staff asking for a meeting with county, state and federal officials to discuss a plan to assist the immigrants.
  7. Ald. Tom Tunney is not going to run for mayor after all, he announced today. The news comes after Tunney said in August that he would not seek reelection to the council and was considering a run for the city’s top job.
  8. A new exhibit at Midway Airport, titled, “American Heroes: Portraits of Service,” features dozens of stunning images of veterans. Our Stefano Esposito caught up with the photographer and some of the men featured in the piece here. 
  9. The former General Iron metal-shredding operation in Lincoln Park will be completely cleared of buildings — possibly by the end of the year. It is a move that Ald. Brian Hopkins hopes will move the 20-acre riverfront property a step closer to being sold. 
  10. An Elk Grove Village man who paid Virgin Galactic $175K in 2007 to be on a spaceflight says he finally grew tired of waiting and asked got a refund. Even though he won’t realize his dream of going up in space, Shefket Chapadjiev, now 84, says he’s a happy man.

A bright one

After 6-person kidney exchange, families meet for first time: ‘A small sacrifice to make such a big impact’

Rick Calcutt lived a healthy life for years despite having a kidney condition.

But the former pro athlete’s kidneys worsened over the last several months. He needed dialysis and used sleep apnea mask. He thought he had 5 years left to live.

“Dialysis wasn’t working... I was all hooked up,” said Calcutt, a 59-year-old father of three. “It looked like I was on my deathbed.”

His only hope was a kidney donation, but he worried a waitlist would take too long. And his wife, Marissa Calcutt, 52, was not a match. So the Mount Prospect couple enrolled in a paired kidney donation program. The program lets healthy people donate a kidney in exchange for someone else to donate one to their loved one. In just a week, the couple had found a matching pair in Buffalo, New York, as well as two others who would complete the three-pair chain donation.

Frederick Calcutt, 59, listens while his wife Marissa Calcutt, 52, tears up while speaking virtually to her husband’s kidney donor during a press conference at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. The Calcutts were part of a three-way paired kidney exchange in which Marissa donated her kidney to someone who preferred to remain anonymous, which enabled Frederick to receive a kidney from Christine Faust who is in Buffalo, New York.

Rick Calcutt, 59, listens as his wife Marissa, 52, tears up while speaking virtually to her husband’s kidney donor at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn on Thursday. The Calcutts were part of a three-way paired kidney exchange in which Marissa donated her kidney to someone who preferred to remain anonymous, which enabled Rick to receive a kidney from Christine Faust who, is in Buffalo, New York.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

After a series of successful operations this summer, the Calcutts yesterday held an emotional videoconference call with the pair in New York that had helped save each other’s lives.

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m going to start crying,” Marissa Calcutt told Christine and Ruth Faust, a former mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.

As part of the exchange, Christine Faust donated her healthy kidney to Rick Calcutt so that another donor, who asked to remain anonymous, would donate their kidney to her mother-in-law, Ruth Faust.

“I’m glad I could share part of me with you,” Christine Faust told the Calcutts. “It’s such a small sacrifice to make such a big impact.”

David Struett has more on this powerful moment here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Say you’re opening a new restaurant in Chicago — where would it be located? Tell us why. 

Here’s what some of you said...

“A nice little restaurant with a patio in the pedway system — it’s about to be cooooollllld.” — Jason Abdalla

“East Rogers Park — they could use a few. That old Leona’s on Sheridan would be perfect.” — Matt Conlon

“East side from 71st and Jeffery to 95th and commercial. An African restaurant will thrive there.” — James Cutenubia

“Bronzeville or South Shore because there aren’t enough.” — Joi Watts

“On Milwaukee Ave where Como Inn used to be.” — Claudia Moon Zikuda

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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