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State panel investigating Burke in City Hall ethics scandal

Ald. Edward Burke sits and listens as the Committee on Finance meets on March 6, 1998, in the City Council chambers. Burke is the chairman. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

The state panel that investigates lawyer misconduct has subpoenaed state records of a key firm in the City Hall ethics scandal, SDI Security Inc., including monthly reports signed by Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

The subpoena is the first public indication that the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission is probing the activities of Burke, an attorney, who has helped run SDI, and lawyer Michael Pedicone, the firm’s president.

Although news of the ARDC subpoena surfaced Thursday, the scrutiny of Burke by the ARDC, which does not publicize its investigations, reportedly has been underway since at least last summer and is much broader than activities involving SDI.

Burke, a former Chicago police officer, served as SDI’s licensee-in-charge, the company’s chief security professional, for five years and was corporate secretary for four years.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Professional Regulation, who acknowledged receiving the subpoena late last month, said Burke signed the firm’s monthly activity reports, which are filed with the department until June, 1995.

Pedicone, who incorporated SDI in 1989 and has run the firm out of his Loop law office, was retained as a consultant both by the City Council’s Finance Committee, which Burke heads, and by the Transportation Committee, formerly led by ex-Ald. Patrick Huels. Pedicone was paid more than $650,000 by the two committees.

Huels, who is a co-owner of SDI, resigned as 11th Ward alderman in October as a result of the ethics scandal, which was detailed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Huels is not a lawyer and is not a target of the ARDC inquiry.

The ARDC probe is the third continuing investigation of ties between Burke’s legislative work and private business dealings. Federal and Cook County grand juries already are studying the activities of Burke, Huels and Pedicone.

Burke’s attorney, Anton Valukas, did not return calls seeking comment on the ARDC inquiry. Burke, however, has denied wrongdoing and has said his activities as a lawyer always have conformed to the highest legal and ethical standards. Pedicone also did not return repeated phone calls.

For nearly a year, Burke and controversial elements of the influential alderman’s law practice have been the subject of Sun-Times disclosures. ARDC officials have said that the agency may begin inquiries either as a result of news reports or because of complaints against attorneys.

The key ARDC case that defined conflicts of interest by attorney-public officials stemmed from news reports about then-Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak’s representation of city employees making workers compensation claims against the city. The Illinois Supreme Court, which hands down any punishment resulting from ARDC cases, censured Vrdolyak for the conflict.

If ARDC staff attorneys think a lawyer’s conduct has been improper, the result can be censure, suspension or loss of the lawyer’s license.