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Burge Torture Settlements Eat Into Increase in City Revenue from Fines

By Ted Cox | November 8, 2013 12:41pm
 Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton's testimony Friday closed the city's 2014 budget hearings.
Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton's testimony Friday closed the city's 2014 budget hearings.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — City collections for fines and assessments are up 17 percent so far this year, according to Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton.

Testifying Friday during City Council budget hearings, Patton said collections this year were estimated at $190 million, up from $132 million in the first year of the Emanuel administration two years ago. He added that already this year fines and collections are up 17 percent from 2012.

Patton was referring to tickets, fines and fees assessed through ticketing and administrative hearings, where the Law Department typically prosecutes offenses. He added that the city was following through on collecting those judgments.

"By golly, if somebody owes us money, folks go after them pretty good," Patton said.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Patton said the city paid out $144 million this year in settlements.

Some $55 million of that was in contractual adjustments to the infamous parking-meter deal, but about half of the remaining $89 million went to torture victims of notorious Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Patton said the city had paid $55 million in settlements and judgments in the cases.

Yet Patton added that aggressive defense of police misconduct cases had actually cut the number of legal filings against the city in half, from 551 in 2009 to fewer than 300 a year since then.

Patton said the city continues to defend its ward remap against a suit filed by the League of Women Voters, but he added that the city's case was bolstered by the support of the City Council's black and Latino caucuses.

The Law Department was the last to have hearings as part of the 2014 budget process. The budget goes to the City Council, which is expected to vote on it later this month.