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With the help of the Prospect Heights police, the Daily Herald may have placed a whistle blower into danger by reporting an August 25 explosion in a quiet Prospect Heights residential area was intended for another victim.
In a story that ran first last Friday afternoon in its online version followed by one in the DH's print edition on Saturday entitled "Cops: Prospect Hts house bombed in case of mistaken identity," reporter Madhu Krishnamurthy said Prospect Heights' Police Commander Al Steffen speculated the August 25th explosion set off at a home in the 200 block of Gail Court South was likely intended for the home of "an area political activist."
"The intended target of the bomb 'was a whistle-blower in a political campaign,'" Steffen told the DH. "We were aware that there was an investigation going on involving that person."
(Our apologies for the first mistakenly published version of this story. The corrected version was posted at 10:50 PM Sunday night.)
Illinois Review has learned that Tuesday, the Schaumburg Township Library Board of Trustees received a September 2 letter of resignation from board Trustee Marilyn Froehlich. The resignation is expected to be discussed at the board's September 21 month meeting.
The library board's minutes indicate Mrs. Froehlich has not attended a library board meeting since March, soon after Illinois Review and Fox News Chicago began airing stories about her husband, State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg). The four-term incumbent is facing public scrutiny over allegations that he may have accepted campaign donations from constituents in exchange for lower property tax assessments.
The Sun-Times is reporting that over the past nine years, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's law firm has made $171,000 by seeking property tax breaks for developers who get state financing to build low-income housing.
Records also show the firm of Madigan & Getzendanner helped another state contractor save about $300,000 in property taxes on the Atrium Mall and food court it operates inside the James R. Thompson Center, the state's main office building in Chicago.
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.
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 byDemocrat 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."
Remember Illinois Review'sfirst "Friends of Froehlich" story questioning the comments State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) wrote at the bottom of a Board of Review appeal report? Comments that suggested a quid pro quo for intervening on behalf of the Schaumburg Comfort Suites' owner?
The Daily Herald reported Friday that Froehlich -- who they seem to have avoided writing about -- has ties to some Schaumburg area assessment appeals that the Board of Review has suddenly reversed. One is the Comfort Suites:
The assessment for Comfort Suites Schaumburg, at 1100 E. Higgins Road, owned by Bimal Doshi, which the board had lowered from approximately $1.3 million for 2007 to $839,000 for last year, was increased to nearly $1.1 million.
Fox Chicago News is running teasers about another segment by Dane Placko about the Cook County Board of Review's tax appeal process, and its internal investigation into Democrat State Rep. Paul Froehlich's 96 percent success rate with constituent appeals. It will include the Democratic operative Victor Santana and an attorney whose identity they'll reveal tonight.
Stay tuned...Illinois Review will stay on this story.
Democrat State Rep. Paul Froehlich's latest filing with the State Board of Elections shows a $25,000 expenditure to Genson & Gillespie for legal fees (see below). Genson & Gillespie is a well-known Chicago criminal defense law firm.
The Froehlich campaign expenditure was recorded on May 12, just a week after Chicago Fox News ran a story questioning Froehlich's involvement as a state legislator with constituent property tax appeals and the Cook County Board of Review, as well as exposing Froehlich's alleged use of a public school bus to transport campaign office equipment in 2008.
Attorney Ed Genson is known for representing members of the mob, convicted associates of George Ryan, Operation Greylord defendants and most recently, federally-indicted Governor Rod Blagojevich during the Illinois House's Impeachment hearing in January 2009. He withdrew from the Blagojevich case shortly before the governor was impeached.
The Tribune reports that "Cook County prosecutors have demanded records from the county tax appeal board amid questions about property-tax breaks awarded to businessmen who are political supporters of a state lawmaker, the Tribune has learned.
The grand jury subpoenas to the Cook County Board of Review seek records on tax appeal cases that are already the subject of an internal board investigation involving state Rep. Paul Froehlich (D- Schaumburg) and a political associate who used to work for tax board Commissioner Joseph Berrios.
One of three elected board members, Berrios is also chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and a Springfield lobbyist with close ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan, the state Democratic Party chairman.
Board members and their staffs have been investigating whether Froehlich used any "undue influence" through Victor Santana, the political associate who worked for Berrios, or anybody else to get the tax breaks for businesses in Froehlich's district, Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. said. Rogers said he was aware that investigators for State's Atty. Anita Alvarez were looking at tax cases as well but wouldn't say whether they were the same ones."
Fox News Chicago ran another story Monday night, which was touched off by Illinois Review's series on Democrat State Rep. Paul Froehlich and his questionable activities regarding property tax assessments and his association with certain individuals connected to the Cook County Board of Review.
Democratic state Rep. Paul Froehlich of Schaumburg has announced he won't run for re-election next year.
Implying that another political opportunity may present itself either before or after the end of his current fourth term, Froehlich said he wants to make his decision public before the start of the primary petition period on Aug. 4.
The story does not refer to concerns that have been raised here on Illinois Review about Froehlich's practice of offering to intercede on lower property tax assessments on constituents' behalfs, but only the fact that Froehlich switched parties from Republican to Democrat in 2006.
When one Schaumburg resident signed a tax appeal form that State Representative Paul Froehlich offered her at her door a few months ago, she says she was under the distinct impression she wouldn't have to do anything more but wait to hear how much her home's assessment had been lowered and how much her property taxes had gone down.
"He told me I had an 80 percent chance of getting my taxes lowered, but never mentioned anything about having to go to Chicago for a hearing," she said.
But when that same resident opened a letter from the Cook County Board of Review Friday (see graphic right), she was informed she'd need to go downtown on June 23 for a hearing before county officials, as well as gather information about comparable houses in her area and take photos.
"We weren't prepared for all this," she said. "Froehlich gave us the impression it would all be taken care of when I signed the sheet at the door."
When State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) began moving furniture into his 2008 campaign office, he needed a way to get it from his legislative office on Weathersfield Way to the one on Wise Road. Paul Froehlich's brother Dave Froehlich - the Rolling Meadows High School Athletic Director - provided a vehicle that was big enough: a Rolling Meadows High School bus.
Former staff worker Judy McCurdy took the photos (right) from within Froehlich's legislative office in August, 2008. When confronted by Fox News' Dane Placko, Froehlich offered to refund the Rolling Meadows taxpayers for unauthorized use of the bus for a day.
State Rep. Randy Ramey wants to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen again. This week he introduced legislation making the use of a school property for campaign use a Class 4 Felony. Check out HB 4565.
On several occasions, State Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg) has insisted that appealing the property taxes of district businessmen and homeowners is just a part of constituent services. Illinois Review looked into how that works itself out in Froehlich's own neighborhood.
Rep. Froehlich lives on a cul de sac in Schaumburg, where all the houses are in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. According to the description on the Cook County Assessor's website, Froehlich's house has the smallest square footage (1501 sq ft) on his street and is the only house on the street with only one bathroom. Three other neighbors' property tax bills are comparable to the state rep's annual taxes of $4800. All others range from $5000 to $6000 annually.
While Illinois families are faced with lower property values and higher property tax bills, Democrat Paul Froehlich voted against legislation that would have provided substantive property tax relief for families. Froehlich joined with the Chicago Democrat leaders in opposing the property tax relief measure.
“Families need relief and they need it now. Yet Mark Walker is more concerned with raising taxes then providing tax relief,” said Pat Brady, Republican National Committeeman. “While Paul Froehlich supports higher taxes to bail out a bloated state budget, he continues to reject common-sense, responsible tax relief for Illinois families.”
Froehlich voted against House Bill 4442, legislation that would have increased the homestead exemption from $6,000 to $7,500 beginning in tax year 2009. The homestead exemption reduces the assessed value of a home, which subsequently reduces the property tax bill of a homeowner. Under the Republican plan, the $1,500 increase in the homestead exemption would provide approximately $150 in property tax relief each year for Illinois families.
Prompted by Illinois Review's stories on Rep. Paul Froehlich, Fox News Chicago aired the first part of their investigative report into the Democrat Representative's activities last night (5/5/09). Below are excerpts from that Fox News segment: