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A powerful alderman will get a reprieve for another week as a RebelPundit expose will take center stage in his ballot challenge.

Pat O’Connor has been alderman in the 40th ward for nearly thirty years, but a citizen challenge in front of the Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE) by Leah Fried hopes that unpaid bills at one of his condominiums will knock him off the ballot before he faces the voters this coming February.

The case will be heard by the three Chicago Board of Electionsjudges: Langdon Neal, Richard Cowen and Marisel Hernandez, but Fried and her attorney Andrew Finko will ask Neal to recuse himself and they will cite an August RebelPundit expose as evidence.

In that expose, RebelPundit uncovered a dubious TIF which handed more than $200,000 in 2005 to a shell company by the name of JJJ Properties in O’Connor’s 40th Ward and Neal acted as the lobbyist for JJJ Properties. The builder, Jacob Kieferbaum, would later be found guilty of federal charges and be sentenced to federal prison in 2013.

In the complaint, Finko points out that Neal has collected $230,000 in fees from that TIF since 1999. Finko argues in the complaint that the longstanding financial relationship between Neal and O’Connor creates a conflict which should force Neal to recuse himself.

Neal’s law firm, LeCroy and Neal, has millions in similar contracts with the City of Chicago making this a potentially landmark ruling, which could set a precedent for future business in front of the (CBOE). As chairman of the CBOE, a part-time position Neal has held since 1997, Neal makes $91,223 annually.

The chairman of Neal’s law firm, Richard Friedman, is not only a neighbor of O’Connor but a frequent campaign contributor, according to the same complaint.

The complaint itself has to do with another condominium building on the 5300 block of North Lincoln Avenue where O’Connor owns a unit and argues that past due debts owed by the condominium should disqualify O’Connor from running.

“For many years, the condo property and its owners, including the candidate have been in arrears on debts to the City of Chicago arising from elevator inspections, failed inspections, citations, violations and fines imposed by the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings which remain due and owing and unpaid for years.”

Any candidate with monies owed to the City of Chicago is to be removed from the ballot, according to the complaint which cited city ordinances.

The building itself is tied to another notorious figure previously exposed by RebelPundit, Cedomir Zuric, a deadbeat dad who owes more than $500,000 to his ex-wife but managed to slip out of the country and back in at least once since 2008, despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Zuric, along with his brother Branislav, were the builders of this particular property.

Alderman O’Connor previously told RebelPundit that he’d done nothing illegal or unethical with regards to the unit he owns in this building.

His wife Barbara, a high-powered realtor in Chicago, was the exclusive realtor and later condominium board member but downplayed her role, telling RebelPundit the Zuric’s were one of several builders she’d worked with and was unaware of Cedomir Zuric’s past due child support when she worked with him.

The Zuric’s were the subject of a 2008 expose by Carol Marin showing political influence in several wards including O’Connor’s 40th ward.

Both Neal’s recusal and the ballot challenge were supposed to be heard on December 29, 2014 but were pushed back to January 5, 2015 after board member Richard Cowan was absent from the December 29 meeting.

Fried, a veteran labor organizer, told RebelPundit she expects media presence at the next meeting, only RebelPundit attended the December 29 meeting.

O’Connor will be represented by Jim Nally in the hearing on Monday January 5, 2015.

7 Responses

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