HYDE PARK — Challengers to Ald. Will Burns in the 4th Ward race are questioning whether his side job influenced his decisions as alderman.
Norman Bolden’s campaign is asking Burns to explain what sort of work he did as a managing director at ASGK Public Strategies, a public relations firm whose clients include the University of Chicago, Mariano’s parent Roundy’s and other companies that do business in the ward.
Burns declined to say which firms he specifically worked for while at ASGK or how long he worked there. But he is no longer officially on staff.
“I am no longer an employee of ASGK,” Burns said in a statement. “As an employee of ASGK I focused on business development and strategic counsel.”
According to ASGK, Burns quit on June 30. But he remains an independent consultant.
“Will has a consulting contract with ASGK and provides us with public affairs counsel,” Eric Herman, a managing director at ASGK, said Tuesday. “He's not an ASGK employee, and he does not work on city-related matters.”
The firm handles public relations campaigns for corporations such as Roundy’s, which announced in May that it would build a new Mariano’s in the 4th Ward. ASGK is currently promoting the University of Chicago’s two proposed sites for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, which includes a controversial plan to locate it on public parkland within Washington Park in the 4th Ward.
Former advisor to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod, founded the company along with sister agency AKPD, which manages public relations for political campaigns. It managed communications for Burns’ 2011 bid for alderman.
“Seeing as he [Burns] likes to negotiate behind closed doors, how can his constituents be assured that he is not giving payback by servicing requests from the University of Chicago to the company that ran his campaign and is the sister company to ASGK?” said Hannah Hayes, a spokeswoman for Bolden’s campaign.
AKPD, which has a separate staff and office space from ASGK, declined to comment.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: