Harmon of Oak Park, rainmaker? (He denies it)

Oak Park’s own Don Harmon, senator in Springfield, up and coming star of the Illinois senate and as township committeeman top dog in the Democratic (Progressive) Party of Oak Park, has a kink in his armor? 

Say it ain’t so.

Since bringing an influential state legislator on board as a partner in 2005, a small Chicago law firm has secured at least $6.3 million in legal work from state agencies that receive funding and oversight from the General Assembly, the Better Government Association has learned.

While that relationship smacks of a conflict of interest, it’s not the only curiosity involving the legislator, state Sen. Don Harmon, and the firm where he’s a partner, Burke Burns & Pinelli Ltd.

Oh my, and he looks so innocent.  No choir boy looks more so.

The BGA also found that Harmon – a Democrat from Oak Park who once served as deputy legal counsel to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – voted earlier this year on a casino bill that his firm helped craft on behalf of its client, the City of Des Plaines.

Say what? He did not recuse himself, abstain, whatever, from an issue dear to the heart of his employer?  Employer?

State officials maintain the firm’s state work doesn’t constitute a legal conflict of interest in part because Harmon doesn’t own a piece of Burke Burns or handle legal work with state agencies.

Under state law, a company that employs a lawmaker and does business with the state cannot pay that lawmaker more than $107,000 a year, or 60 percent of the governor’s salary, says Matt Brown, the state’s chief procurement officer for general services.

Brown says a review of Burke Burns’ state contracts determined they meet guidelines because Harmon, a salaried attorney at the firm, is paid less than $107,000 a year and has no “pecuniary interest” in the contracts.

Harmon, the Senate’s president pro tempore, declined to disclose his Burke Burns salary, other than to say it’s less than what he’s paid as a senator (roughly $78,000). Pressed on his income, Harmon acknowledged he’s also entitled to a bonus through the firm, but he wouldn’t reveal specifics.

Harmon is “careful . . . to avoid real and perceived conflicts,” he says. 

However, on the firm’s web site Harmon’s government experience is touted, mentioning among other things that he is vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Assignments, “which directs the flow of legislation to substantive Senate committees.”

The politico in this position needn’t say a word for his firm, of course, but that doesn’t mean the firm can’t make sure clients know about him.  Not every firm has a senate president pro tem, now does it?

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