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Waguespack denies trading his support for Lightfoot for Finance Committee chair

Ald. Scott Waguespack

Ald. Scott Waguespack | Sun-Times file photo

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said Wednesday he “didn’t make any deals” with Lori Lightfoot in exchange for endorsing her mayoral campaign, even as he acknowledged the obvious: He would love to chair the City Council’s Finance Committee if Lightfoot is elected mayor.

Toni Preckwinkle pointed to a Facebook post by a part-time political worker for Waguespack as evidence that Lightfoot had promised Waguespack the Finance Committee chairmanship held for decades by Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

The Sunday post by Steve Jensen stated, “Lori has confirmed Waguespack to be floor leader or Finance chair. Toni will not. Real change comes from these two positions…” The post has since been taken down.

“Is alleged reformer Lori Lightfoot bargaining for support by promising a powerful position?” Preckwinkle’s campaign manager Jessey Neves was quoted as saying in a statement.

“Chicago needs a mayor who will take on the old boys club — not bargain for support and money in exchange for powerful positions. Lori Lightfoot has a lot of questions to answer.”

Waguespack endorsed Lightfoot days before she finished first in a Round One field of fourteen. He has since donated $10,000 to her campaign.

But the alderman characterized as “wholly false” Preckwinkle’s claim that Lightfoot promised him the Finance Committee chairmanship in exchange for his support. The Lightfoot campaign also emphatically denied the deal-making charge.

Waguespack said he was so angry about the Facebook post, he has severed ties with Jensen.

“I told him you can’t put statements out there like that. So, we’re done,” said Waguespack, chairman of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.

Waguespack didn’t hesitate when asked whether he would accept Lightfoot’s offer to chair the City Council’s most powerful committee.

“Of course,” he said.

Pressed to describe what kind of chairman he would be, Waguespack contrasted his own, open-book style with what became business as usual under Burke.

“As open, transparent, non-Rule 14-taking. Just making sure that we’re working in a timely manner to address a lot of the issues so that we’re not rushing people to make decisions from either the administration standpoint or a chairman standpoint,” Waguespack said.

“For instance, getting a bond deal and having to vote on it same day. That wouldn’t be acceptable. We would vet these issues in a much more structured manner and timely way for both taxpayers and aldermen to review documents and projects and programs.”

For decades, Burke controlled what matters were placed on the Finance Committee agenda and presided over and even participated in debate on those issues. Then, he would abstain from the final vote to avoid a conflict of interests with his law clients.

“The abstaining, the Rule 14 part is more having a financial interest, and that would not be on the table at all. That has to completely change,” Waguespack said.

Burke was forced to relinquish the job that was his primary power base for decades after being charged on Jan. 3 with attempted extortion.

The 50-year veteran alderman was accused of shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and for a $10,000 campaign contribution for Preckwinkle’s re-election campaign as county board president.

Despite the legal cloud hanging over him, Burke was re-elected on Feb. 26. He soundly defeated two Hispanic candidates in his overwhelmingly Hispanic Southwest Side ward, one of whom was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Federal investigators face a May 3 deadline to indict Burke.