Delays in Cook County assessor's office probe raises red flags

Friday, February 02, 2018 06:18PM
The allegations of corruption swirling around the property tax system in Cook County are becoming an even bigger issue in this election year.


CHICAGO - The allegations of corruption swirling around the property tax system in Cook County are becoming an even bigger issue in this election year.
Problems in the assessment system have become an issue in the governor's race and among Democrats, but now concerns about delays in a much-anticipated report about the way the assessor's office is run has several other candidates raising red flags.

Republican candidate for Attorney General Gary Grasso is going beyond just criticizing the current property tax system in Cook County. He has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that his office launch an investigation.

"I don't know that he will or won't. But I believe that he should and that's because no one locally here will take this on," said Gary Grasso, R-Candidate for Attorney General.

The Department of Justice could not immediately confirm receipt of the letter. Grasso pointed to published reports which have criticized Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios for giving tax breaks to the rich who use politically-connected law firms to get their assessments lowered at the expense of the poor.

"It is the system itself that needs to be investigated," Grasso said.

An independent third party is conducting an investigation of how the Assessor's office values residential properties, a probe Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle requested in July. But with the primary less than seven weeks away, there are concerns it's being delayed for political reasons. Bob Fioretti is running against Preckwinkle.

"So we need to look at this and open up the process and tell us what's happening
now and not wait until a couple few days before the election or even after the election," Fioretti said.

Preckwinkle's office said the report is expected before the end of February. A spokesperson added, "Any allegation this is being slow-walked is nonsense."

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios signed a confidentiality agreement with the firm conducting the investigation and says he has taken a hands-off approach to their work.

"I'm going to look at what they come up with. And I will make sure that whatever is best for the taxpayers here and Cook County I will do," Berrios said.
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