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Solis all but gone, but 25th Ward can’t replace him until May 20, O’Connor says

Ald. Danny Solis' City Hall ward office

The ward office for Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) at City Hall. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25th) has already quit “for all intents and purposes,” but the 25th Ward will have to get by without an alderman until a new City Council is sworn in on May 20 because it’s impractical for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to appoint a temporary replacement, the mayor’s floor leader said Monday.

“I don’t in any way think that it’s a good situation by any stretch of the imagination. But just the practicality of asking somebody to do that for two months — I just don’t know who does that and I don’t know how you do it,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), who replaced Ald. Edward Burke (14th) as chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee after Burke was charged with attempted extortion.

“You’d have to find somebody who lives in the ward who’d be willing to leave what they’re doing for two months, then go back to their regular life. I just think the practical solution is to let the people speak.”

Two weeks ago, four Hispanic aldermen demanded Solis make a choice: come “out of the shadows,” apologize for his transgressions and start servicing his constituents — or resign from the Council seat he has held since 1996.

Aldermen George Cardenas (12th), Ray Lopez (15th), Milly Santiago (31st) and Hispanic Caucus Chairman Gilbert Villegas (36th) argued Solis has disgraced and abandoned his community and it was not enough for him simply to resign as Zoning Committee chairman.

The aldermen were referring to a Chicago Sun-Times report detailing the corruption allegations that prompted Solis to spend more than two years secretly recording more than a dozen conversations with Burke as movers and shakers sought city actions.

Those charges include receiving sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and a steady stream of campaign contributions in exchange for shepherding official City Council actions, according to allegations in a federal court affidavit obtained by the Sun-Times.

On Monday, O’Connor argued: “For all intents and purposes, he has quit.”

But the 25th Ward will still have to get along without an alderman under the May 20 inauguration unless one of the five candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 26, avoiding a runoff.

“Basic services are being attended to. People who were working on all of the issues in that ward are still continuing to work there as far as I know from the standpoint of his staffing,” O’Connor said.

After the Sun-Times disclosed Solis had worn a wire on Burke, astounded aldermen reacting angrily to news that one of their own had betrayed them by taking sides against the family.

On Monday, O’Connor acknowledged some of those comments were “somewhat ill-advised” because it sounded like the City Council was abiding by a code of silence.

“We ask communities to cooperate with the police. We ask communities to work with law enforcement to identify law breakers. We don’t see that as a terrible thing. We see that as something that’s important for the safety of communities,” O’Connor said.

“The distinction that needed to be made that wasn’t made was that, here was an individual who had some issues of his own as it related to law enforcement and, in an effort to lessen those problems, he went out trying to capture other people who otherwise may or may not have been willing to break the law.”

If Solis had “personal knowledge of somebody breaking the law,” O’Connor said that would be “a very different thing than basically going out and trying to find ways” to entrap his City Council colleagues.

“It was basically saving himself,” O’Connor said. “That was the distinction that was not highlighted when those somewhat ill-advised comments were made by some of the members of the City Council,” O’Connor said.