CHICAGO - Despite investigative reports pointing to questionable property tax assessment tactics throughout Cook County, the county's assessor Joe Berrios is not intimidated. He sat prominently at the head table Saturday as not only as the county's chief property value assessor, but as the chairman of the Cook County Democrat Party during their pre-primary endorsement session.
Berrios' office was spotlighted by Pro Publica Illinois/ Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Jason Grotto, who found several practices that Grotto says causes property owners in Cook County's poorer and less-connected municipalities to carry more of the property tax burden.
But that wasn't all Grotto found. In January, Grotto also found that Berrios was facing $41,000 in fines:
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios is facing $41,000 in fines for failing to return campaign contributions from property tax appeals lawyers whose donations exceeded legal limits, according to a pair of new rulings by the county ethics board.
The rulings raise the level of scrutiny on campaign contributions given by appeals lawyers to Berrios, who doubles as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and depends heavily on their donations in raising political funds. The action also ignites another high-profile showdown with the county Board of Ethics, with which he previously clashed over nepotism issues.
Still, Berrios was prominent at Saturday's Cook County Democrat endorsement session - and had no qualms as Democrat candidates for attorney general asked to be the party's pick in the March primary. The AG slot is packed with hopefuls since Illinois Democrat Party chairman Mike Madigan's daughter Lisa has decided she will not run for a third re-election.
Grotto spoke with Illinois manufacturers about his findings at the Technology & Manufacturing Association in Schaumburg. Illinois manufacturers within Cook County find themselves being forced to hire appeals attorneys year after year in order to stay in business. Those commenting shared some of the outrageous tax bills they get year after year, and how the system is clearly rigged.
Some of the points Grotto made:
For more about Berrios' office and his influence in the state's most populous Democrat county, read "The Tax Divide" published on ProPublica HERE.