In the 2008 primary, Democratic challenger Jay Paul Deratany raised questions about Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios inappropriately receiving campaign contributions from attorneys who argued before him and the other two commissioners on the Cook County Board of Review. Berrios has recently been in Fox News Chicago's spotlight with similar questions involving State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) and local political operative Victor Santana.
During the 2008 Democratic primary, a northwest suburban group held a forum in which no holds were barred and the audience raised questions about political favors and Board of Review tax assessment appeals. The Des Plaines Times wrote on January 30, 2008 how Democrat operative Thomas Jaconetty defended Commissioner Berrios' campaign donation sources:
"Anyone has a right to contribute to a campaign. They may be homeowners or business operators who feel they were fairly treated or that the system is efficient and effective. This is America," Jaconetty said.
Get real, challenger Jay Paul Deratany shot back, noting that according to a 2002 Sun-Times investigation, a small lunch counter was valued at $181,000 while a Carson's Ribs across the street was valued at only $12,000. "Is it a coincidence that Carson's Ribs made a campaign contribution to Mr. Berrios that year to the tune of about $25,000?"
Jaconetty insisted that Berrios, who is also Cook County Democratic Party chairman, did nothing wrong by accepting those contributions from property owners seeking lower property assessments:
Jaconetty didn't deny Berrios has accepted campaign donations even from lawyers who appear before the Board of Review, but called it "ridiculous" to infer those contributions have anything to do with the board's decision.
"I wouldn't even comment on this except that it's not true," Jaconetty said, noting there are three members of the Board of Review and that "99 percent of the reductions on major properties in the Loop are unanimous."
Cook County State's Attorney opened an investigation of property tax appeals in Schaumburg, after Illinois Review and Fox News Chicago's investigative series. More to come ...