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Senate President Harmon to leave his law firm after 15 years

Thursday, Jan 23, 2020

* What Harmon is doing is the opposite of what usually happens in this state when legislators advance to the top of the food chain. Here’s Amanda Vinicky

At a time when leading legislators’ private side jobs are increasingly under scrutiny, newly elevated state Senate President Don Harmon will step down as a partner at the law firm Burke Burns & Pinelli, Ltd. to focus full-time on his new leadership position.

Harmon told “Chicago Tonight” on Wednesday he met with the firm’s founding partner Mary Patricia Burns on Tuesday to discuss his exit.

“We began the discussion of me stepping away from the practice in order to devote more time to the Senate presidency,” said Harmon, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 39th District, which covers parts of Oak Park. “We’re working out all those details but I’ve recognized that I just don’t have the time capacity to be a good senate president and to practice law the way I practiced it.”

…Adding… Sun-Times

“I was very careful to manage the conflicts, and my firm was incredibly committed to making sure I had the chance to maintain my integrity,” Harmon told WTTW. “The simple fact of the matter is I just don’t have the time to be a good Senate president and live up to my responsibilities to my partners and my clients.”

Mary Pat Burns, the majority owner of the firm, said in an emailed statement that she and Harmon agreed he could “best serve Illinois by devoting all of his time to his new role in the Senate.”

“It’s been wonderful to practice law with him at Burke Burns & Pinelli for the last 15 years,” she said. “And I take pride in knowing that a WBE firm played such a central role in the life of the new President of the Illinois Senate.”

The headline of that article was nonsense, by the way. “Illinois Senate President Don Harmon ‘stepping away’ from law firm job amid conflict of interest scrutiny.” Somebody does the right thing for a change and that’s the response? Yeah, that’ll encourage more of this sort of behavior.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments
  1. - MG85 - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:27 am:

    I think this move by the newly elected Senate President sets the bar for a little higher for elected officials ethics standards.

    I maintain that the salaries of general assembly members should be dramatically increased, their positions be made full time and they be barred from all outside employment or direct ownership in a private company, but until then I believe this is the right move.

    The logical question is how does Speaker Madigan and fellow members of the Senate respond to this example? Should they, too, focus solely on their elected offices and step down from their day jobs?

    One could make the case had Senator Tom Cullerton followed this model, he wouldn’t be federally indicted.

    Nonetheless, this first step puts pressure on every newly elected member of the General Assembly and every new Senate President to follow this precedent.

    Good for President Harmon and good for the state of Illinois.


  2. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:28 am:

    Good for him.


  3. - Driveby - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:28 am:

    Bravo, Harmon.


  4. - Rutro - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:28 am:

    More of this.


  5. - phocion - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:28 am:

    Very cool!


  6. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    –Good for him.–

    This could also be the Speaker’s statement on “Senator Harmon’s” move.


  7. - Centennial - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:34 am:

    Smart move by Harmon. He’s off to a good start!


  8. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:35 am:

    Agreed, strong move.


  9. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:42 am:

    Absolutely the right move. And I’ll note that so many commenters during the senate presidents race insisted he was running to boost his law firm. Waiting for those folks to apologize and admit they were wrong about him - ahem Altgeld…


  10. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:49 am:

    Leading by example.

    Good.

    – MrJM


  11. - Nova - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:53 am:

    Smart move


  12. - MG85 - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:54 am:

    ==so many commenters during the senate presidents race insisted he was running to boost his law firm. Waiting for those folks to apologize==

    I thought the same thing but figured I shouldn’t kick dirt into a fallen warrior’s eyes.

    That said, don’t wait for those apologies as that train rarely, if ever, arrives.


  13. - thoughts matter - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    I appreciate it when someone acknowledges that they can’t do it all. Good for him. Hopefully he will be able to carve out a little time for himself after both his Senator and leadership duties are dealt with for the day/week.


  14. - Rich Hill - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:58 am:

    This is healthy for the work that lies ahead. Thank you for doing the right thing, Sen. Harmon.


  15. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    Great, leading by example, I applaud this, and it’s not something to be dismissed lightly, less we start going trough all the leaders, both parties, and embarrass them as they try to embarrass or downplay this.

    President Harmon did himself, the Senate, the state a solid.

    If we’re going to bemoan this “citizen legislator” thingy, then the next legislator to bloviate should remove themselves from outside work too.


  16. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    Rich — Thanks for calling out the Sun-Times on that ridiculous headline. Very unfair and irresponsible.


  17. - Sue - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    Illinois should adopt a rule that both the senate president and house speaker are barred from outside employment in exchange - double the salaries. The State would benefit in a huge way


  18. - Donnie Elgin - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    MJM should take note


  19. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    You have to appreciate if not admire both Harmon and Burke Burns & Pinelli for recognizing this is the right thing to do.


  20. - Billy Sunday - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:03 am:

    Legislators: we should all emulate Sen. Harmon. Character counts. Integrity counts.


  21. - SAP - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:14 am:

    Well-done.


  22. - Kudos - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    == Illinois should adopt a rule that both the senate president and house speaker are barred from outside employment in exchange - double the salaries. The State would benefit in a huge way ==

    Add in majority and minority leader too. Don’t forget Durkin is at a law firm with government ties too.

    President Harmon is doing the right thing here. It’s also important to point out in the interview he didn’t bash other members who are lawyers. He actually made a good case for having those with other careers participating in the General Assembly.


  23. - Anon y mouse - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:18 am:

    Selfless or self-preservation … or a little of both given BBP’s “file” at Sandoval’s office?


  24. - JoanP - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:24 am:

    Definitely the right thing to do. I hope others will follow his example, and I agree with those who have said that salary increases would help.

    That Sun-Times headline is truly obnoxious.


  25. - SouthSide Markie - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:28 am:

    Great decision. The firm does a lot of public finance work, including, in the past, revenue bonds for State agencies. He could have stayed and enjoyed cashing in on simply having his name on the firm’s letterhead. Going the additional step to avoid even the appearance of impropriety sets an important first note for his presidency.


  26. - Monadnock Pigeon - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:29 am:

    Outstanding!


  27. - Fake News - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:32 am:

    Why does the sun times try and dramatize every story that is straight forward?

    The guy is leaving a law firm- and in comes the drama.

    Get a life


  28. - Just a Reader - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    Solid, stand up move by Harmon.

    I’d make the modest proposal we make the state legislature a full time job with a full time salary. That would remove the need for representatives and senators to have side jobs and all the ethical questions they entail. I think full time salaries for the legislature would be one of the best investments we could make in the state government.


  29. - JS Mill - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:43 am:

    =figured I shouldn’t kick dirt into a fallen warrior’s eyes.=

    That part made me laugh out loud.

    Good on Harmon.


  30. - Sayitaintso - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:44 am:

    Regarding the Sun-Times heading - a wit, long time ago, said (something like) ‘the job of a publisher is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then print the chaff.’


  31. - Iris - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    Both Harmon and Mary Pat Burns are consummate professionals and class acts. So great to see integrity and common sense win out for the citizens of Illinois.


  32. - 2000Plus - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:38 am:

    Good for Harmon, Setting the bar….making a difference!


  33. - West Side the Best Side - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    The Sun-Times headline gives support to Fake News proponents. The Media is often times just too lazy to get it right and that ends up hurting overall credibility.


  34. - Sue - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 12:36 pm:

    Kudos- if the minority leaders had any power I would concur but sadly that is not the case here in Madiganstan


  35. - truthtopower - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:15 pm:

    Former President Cullerton continued to practice law. It is not a problem as long as the lawyer doesn’t handle cases involving government. However, what Harmon is doing is cleaner…puts him beyond reproach…always good in politics!


  36. - Publius - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 1:40 pm:

    Agree…well done. the ethics commission should take note and implement similar rules. It is unethical that representatives serve as attorneys for governmental bodies that they represent in Springfield.


  37. - ETown60120 - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 3:28 pm:

    Well done! I see future legislation on the type of work a legislator can hold when in state office.


  38. - Chris - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 3:40 pm:

    “It is not a problem as long as the lawyer doesn’t handle cases involving government.”

    Unless the firm does some very unusual and specific accounting, every partner benefits from the rest of the firm’s work. And clients, even if misguided, seek out the appearance of the connected, even if the connected one is not handling their matter.


  39. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Jan 23, 20 @ 4:39 pm:

    Just wondering…..BBP does quite a bit of bond counseling on public finance.hmmmm.


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