City law forbids the use of City-funded offices for political work, including the solicitation, receipt, or processing of campaign contributions. City employees are not permitted to perform work for political campaigns on paid City time.
Unless the candidate is Debra Silverstein.
Today Silverstein posted on Facebook a photo of her campaign staff busy at work in the campaign office, otherwise known as the conference room of her aldermanic office, which for campaign purposes is known as Suite B.
Silverstein’s aldermanic office at 2949 West Devon Avenue also houses the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, a fundraising organization that supports the political work of the 50th Ward Machine.
Silverstein’s aldermanic office at 2949 West Devon Avenue is also the mailing address of Friends for Debra Silverstein, her year-round fundraising organization, which solicits, accepts, and processes money.
Silverstein’s aldermanic office at 2949 West Devon Avenue is also, according to the Illinois Secretary of State, the corporate headquarters of Jamestown Realty, whose owner is Demetrios Spyrakos. To my knowledge, Silverstein’s office is the only aldermanic office in the City that serves as corporate headquarters for a private business.
Records available online from the Assessor’s Office do not list Debra’s office in a property address search; do a PIN search (13-01-104-004-0000) for the property record and note that the buildingg housing Silverstein’s aldermanic office is tax-exempt.
Then check that PIN number with the Recorder of Deeds, and discover that the Recorder shows the building is owned by FREE (Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe), which is why it’s tax exempt. Yes, that’s correct, an income-producing storefront rental is tax exempt.
The lease signed by Debra Silverstein and paid for by the taxpayers is an agreement between Silverstein as alderman and Demetrios Spyrakos.
- The taxpayers of Chicago paid monthly rent to Demetrios Spyrakos, not Jamestown Realty, for the City-leased alderman’s office.
- The 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization paid rent irregularly–three to four times per year–to Jamestown Realty, not Demetrios Spyrakos, for its use of space within the City-leased alderman’s office.
- Silverstein’s campaign committee in 2014-15 did not pay any rent to the City for its use of space within the City-leased alderman’s office.
- Silverstein’s campaign committee in 2018-19 has not paid any rent to the City for its use of space within the City-leased alderman’s office.
- It is not known whether Jamestown Realty paid the City for its use of space within the alderman’s office.
Internet sources state that Jamestown Realty has three employees and its own phone number, all located within the alderman’s office. It’s to be expected that Mail is delivered and phones are answered. But where are the Jamestown employees? The only staff inside the alderman’s office are City employees. If Jamestown Realty employees work at the Jamestown Realty Corporate Offices within the alderman’s office, where do they sit? Where are their phones? Where is their equipment? Surely City employees on City time are not handling Jamestown Realty mail or answering Jamestown Realty phones? Interestingly, when the alderman’s office is closed in observance of a holiday, or the alderman gives her staff other paid time off–as she did at Christmas–the corporate offices of Jamestown Realty are also closed.
Where are the staff for the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization? Who answers the phones? Who processes the mail and the donations? Do they share Suite B with the re-election campaign staff?
And what about Debra’s re-election campaign office and staff? They are supposedly located in Suite B. But there’s a recent picture of Debra hosting a paper-plate pizza lunch for public school principals in the conference room. Where did the campaign staffers go during this event? Were theyworking in another part of the City-leased aldermanic office? In the photo Silverstein posted on Facebook, they are clearly sitting around her conference table–isn’t that City-owned property? This isn’t nitpicking. These are supposed to be totally separate operations. By law.
Look at the Facebook picture again. Where did all those boxes of literature and posters go while the principals ate pizza? Where does the campaign staff hold meetings and interact with volunteers? We know campaign staff come in on weekends because they send emails like the one about the library’s opening date. Have you noticed how often the Facebook and Twitter links on ward announcements go to Debra’s re-election sites? This isn’t coincidence. The line between aldermanic business and re-election campaigning has blurred to the point of nonexistence.
Ira’s a lawyer, familiar with election law. Deborah is a CPA, familiar with election law So what’s going on here?
- Why is the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization housed within the taxpayer-funded aldermanic office?
- Why is Debra Silverstein’s re-election campaign situated within her taxpayer-funded aldermanic office?
- Why are the Friends of Deborah Silverstein soliciting and receiving campaign contributions year round from within her City-funded aldermanic office?
- Why is Jamestown Realty’s official corporate headquarters located within the City-leased alderman’s office?
Something’s rotten, and it ain’t in Denmark.
Independent Researcher Anne Sullivan shared her own work on this topic with Follies. I am grateful for her diligence and generosity.