An investigation by the Chicago area's Better Government Association, Chicago Magazine and WGN TV News had "nothing whatsoever" to do with the resignation of the Cook County Ethics Board chairman this week:
For months, WGN-TV, the Chicago Magazine and the Better Government Association have been trying to get John Pikarski to answer "ethical" questions concerning his relationship with the new Cook County Assessor, Joe Berrios.
Over two decades, Pikarski's law firm has donated thousands of dollars to Joe Berrios' campaigns. His firm's clients got back millions in property tax reductions from the Board of Review, where Berrios used to work. Now, the ethics chairman and his staff are being asked to rule if Berrios violated ethics by hiring his daughter and son to work at the Cook County Assessor's office.
Wednesday, Chairman Pikarski resigned from his appointment, saying that the BGA investigation had nothing to do with his decision:
John Pikarski Jr., the unpaid chairman of the county Board of Ethics, said his resignation has “nothing whatsoever” to do with a report by WGN-TV, Chicago Magazine and the Better Government Association that noted Pikarski’s law firm had donated thousands of dollars to Berrios’ political campaigns over the years.
Mr. Pikarski's living raised questions of conflict of interest in making impartial decisions on the ethics board, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:
Pikarski is a prominent, longtime real estate zoning attorney whose firm, Gordon and Pikarski, represents clients before the county property tax assessment appeals panel on which Berrios served before winning the race for assessor in November.
Days into his tenure as assessor, Berrios hired his son and sister, both of whom had worked under him at the Board of (Tax) Review. Both received big raises.
County ethics rules state that officials cannot hire relatives who work under their direct supervision. The Board of Ethics is looking into whether Berrios’ hiring of his relatives violated those rules.
Pikarski told the Tribune he was planning to step down because he'd been serving on the ethics board for a long time and is now 68 years old:
“I had intended, when the new president was sworn in and the dust settled a little bit, to resign,” Pikarski said. “It’s been 19 years. I’m 68 years old. It’s appropriate.”