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Justice Anne Burke cleared in Toni Preckwinkle fundraiser complaint

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in 2014. File Photo. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke has been cleared of wrongdoing by a state oversight board that looked into her alleged role in a fundraiser for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The review was prompted by a complaint filed just days before the Chicago mayoral election with the state Judicial Inquiry Board by political consultant Jeffrey Orr, the son of former Cook County Clerk David Orr.

In a letter addressed to Jeffrey Orr this week, the Judicial Inquiry Board wrote that it reviewed the allegations in his complaint and “determined to close the matter.” In the letter, which Orr shared with the Chicago Sun-Times, the board gave no explanation for the decision, only writing that it could not disclose specifics of the review or its outcome due to confidentiality rules.

According to the board’s website, complaints are closed “because the allegations did not constitute incapacity or misconduct under the law and standards of judicial conduct in Illinois.”

Anne Burke declined to comment late Thursday through a spokesman for the State Supreme Court.

The January 2018 fundraiser in question was held at the home of Burke and her husband, embattled Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who is facing attempted extortion charges. Among other allegations, Ed Burke was accused of leaning on a pair of Burger King franchise executives to attend the fundraiser for Preckwinkle. The complaint said one of them made a $10,000 donation that was later reduced to within the campaign contribution limit of $5,600.

Preckwinkle’s connections to the 14th Ward alderman became an issue during the County Board president’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign. In an attempt to distance Preckwinkle from Ed Burke, a senior adviser to Preckwinkle told the Sun-Times the fundraiser held at the Burkes’ Southwest Side home in January of 2018 was “the result of a friendship between Preckwinkle and Burke’s wife, Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke.”

Jeffrey Orr’s complaint had argued that public statements by Preckwinkle and one of her advisers “implicated Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in potential violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

Orr told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday that he was “disappointed” in the review’s ending.

“I think I certainly deserve — and the public certainly deserves — to know what really happened,” Orr said. “Was it unfounded? Did they even do an investigation? We don’t really know.”

Orr, a digital consultant who has previously worked on Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 2015 run for mayor, had tweeted support for Lori Lightfoot, Preckwinkle’s opponent and eventual winner in the race for mayor. Orr denied that he had endorsed Lightfoot, and on Thursday said the complaint against Anne Burke was not politically motivated.

“To me, it’s about getting to the truth,” Jeffrey Orr said. “Part of the problem in Illinois and Chicago is the secretive way of doing things.”