Fighting to keep his job as Finance Committee chairman, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) has sent packets to his colleagues explaining his decision to change the record on City Council votes dating back as far as seven years.

Burke said his only mistake was failing to carefully read copies of the City Council journal immediately after four votes that affected his airline clients.

Had he done so, Burke said, he would have realized that then-Aviation Committee Chairman Thomas Cullerton (38th) had ignored his requests to be recorded as abstaining on the airline matters.

Cullerton died in February, 1993, three months before Burke cast one of the votes he later changed.

“My concern with accuracy in the journals has brought on an unfortunate mischaracterization of my actions. . . . I have not changed any vote. I have only had corrections made to the journals to reflect my actions as they occurred at the time these votes were taken,” Burke wrote in the letter, dated Thursday.

“I failed to carefully read the journals at the time. . . . I take full responsibility for not doing so. However, I reject the suggestion that my actions in moving to correct the inaccurate journal entries are unethical or improper in any way, shape or form. I welcome the opportunity to work with all the members of the City Council to implement changes in procedure which serve to avoid any future confusion of this nature.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Burke used a rare parliamentary maneuver to change the record of four past City Council votes involving American and Midway airlines after the newspaper raised questions about possible conflicts of interest.

The votes – which Burke changed from yes to abstentions – involved lease agreements for the two airlines. At the time, attorney Burke represented both airlines in property tax appeals.

In an apparent attempt to justify his actions, Burke enclosed copies of journal corrections introduced over the years by other aldermen seeking to change the record on Council votes. One of them was introduced in 1965 by Burke’s father, former Ald. Joseph Burke (14th), on behalf of former Ald. Leon Despres (5th).

Despres, a former Council parliamentarian, has been sharply critical of Edward Burke’s actions.

“I’m sure I made changes to correct an occasional error in the roll call,” Despres said Friday. “But I never made any changes seven years after they occurred. You examine the journal when it comes out, and if there is an error, you ask to make the change immediately at the following session.”

Noting that several aldermen and a newspaper editorial have demanded Burke’s ouster as Finance Committee chairman, Despres said, “He’s trying to hold on to his job and protect his reputation.”