Recent questions about the Cook County Board of Review's property assessment appeals process and possible links to campaign donations aren't new for Democrat State Rep. Paul Froehlich. The issue was front-and-center in the 2008 Democratic primary.
In a January 18, 2008 Chicago Sun-Times column, Neil Steinberg wrote about an inner party squabble among Democrats on Cook County's Board of Review. Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios was challenged in the '08 Democratic primary by Democrat attorney Jay Paul Deratany, who was backed by Democrat Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan. Steinberg asked Deratany why Berrios should be defeated after nearly two decades of service. His answer:
"I'm disgusted with the fact that he gives tax breaks to certain people who appear before him. ...Lawyers who donate money to him, they seem to win huge breaks for huge corporations that don't need breaks. At the same time homeowners have had 300 and 400 percent increases over the past five years and that is going to push the fixed-income people, the middle-income people, the retirees, out of the city. I think this is sickening."
Deratany lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Berrios 60 to 40. Houlihan, Deratany's key supporter, pointed to the connection between Berrios (who is also Cook County Democratic Party chairman), and House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is the Illinois Democrat Party Chairman. Noted Steinberg:
Houlihan doesn't want to comment on influence charges; he's too incensed at Berrios' role, as 31st Ward committeeman, in elevating Todd Stroger to the Cook County Board presidency, as well as his cozy relationship with his nemesis Madigan.
"[Berrios] lobbies before Madigan and Madigan practices before him,'' said Houlihan, a situation that the assessor feels caused Berrios to fight Houlihan's 7 percent tax cap. "I'm pissed at him because he didn't help taxpayers because he's afraid of Madigan."
More to come on the Berrios/Madigan/Victor Santana/Paul Froehlich Board of Review connection.