Real estate experts say J.B. Pritzker, Democrat candidate for Illinois governor, may have some serious legal problems stemming from a leaked report outlining how he allegedly manipulated Cook County’s tax system to lower his property tax bill.
The leaked report from Cook County’s top watchdog revisits how the Chicago billionaire got tax breaks totaling more than $300,000 by ripping out the toilets and altering other parts of one of his Gold Coast mansions shortly before having it deemed uninhabitable by a private appraiser.
Pritzker told reporters Monday that the leak is politically motivated, having been released the month before election day, but said he would comply with any recommendations. He said Tuesday he would repay the $330,000 in taxes
The report contains a subpoenaed email from one contractor to another telling them Pritzker’s wife wants the home made uninhabitable before an appraisal.
“MK [Pritzker’s wife] is now getting back into the task of cleaning up 1431 N. Astor,” read an email from a contractor to another. “She is going to have the house reassessed as an uninhabitable structure. To do this, she would like to have us pull all toilets and cap all toilet lines in the house. Then, after the assessment, she would like us to put the first floor toilet back in and have this as the one functioning bathroom in the place.”
The report by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard concluded that Pritzker was involved in a scheme that included “obtaining money by means of false representations and, in executing the scheme, the responsible parties caused checks to be issued by the Cook County Treasurer and delivered by U.S. Mail according to the direction thereon.”
Richard Hagar, senior residential appraiser with the Appraisal Institute and an expert witness in a number of appraisal lawsuits, says the report outlines a classic case of fraud.
“That appraisal will be used by a government agency to make a decision. That is equal to lying to that government agency,” he said, adding that the evidence of multiple entities acting together to willfully deceive a government entity is possibly a breach of federal conspiracy laws.
“If these other people are aware of the goal, a good prosecutor, I would think, have a case for a conspiracy,” he said.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Attorney General Lisa Madigan did not respond to requests for comment about whether either of their offices would investigate.
Pritzker’s campaign would not respond to requests for comment on the feasibility of the report amounting to criminal charges.
Nathan J. Noble, a real estate attorney based in Belvidere, says the law prohibits a property tax reduction if the structure has purposefully been rendered uninhabitable.
“It certainly is questionable whether the portion of the premises was ‘rendered’ uninhabitable – as the statute contemplates ‘by accidental means’ or rendered reasonably uninhabitable by a legitimate remodel as opposed to a fabricated controlled effort to render an otherwise uncondemnable property uninhabitable – when apparently someone was ordered to remove all plumbing fixtures and appliances from the property,” he said, adding that there may be exceptions hidden in Illinois’ laws on the matter.
“There seems to be nothing accidental about how this home became uninhabitable.”
Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
Langfelder remains confident in his Township merger question
Springfield is on its way to eliminating a unit of government. Capital Township, which is coterminous with the City of Springfield, is moving towards consolidation. Currently, Sangamon County is trying to get the township to merge with the county. But Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is pushing the effort for the township to be merged into the city.
The County’s effort had strong momentum going for it before the election. Both the township board and the county have approved the merger. To further solidify their mandate, they put a non-binding question on the November 6th ballot. That question asked if the county and township should pursue a full merger. The effort passed with 75 percent support, or 31,800 votes.
Despite the progress the County’s effort is making, Langfelder still thinks the city should take over the township. He remains confident that voters will support his ballot question. But that support will have to come in two parts. Because the Springfield City Council declined to endorse his question, Langfelder will need signatures to get on the April ballot at all, in addition to getting votes on Election Day.
Republicans Davis and LaHood hold onto congressional seats
Both Congressmen who serve the Springfield area retained their seats last night. Darin LaHood (R-18) and Rodney Davis (R-13) will be going back to Washington DC. LaHood had a decisive victory with 67.5 percent of the vote against Democrat Junius Rodriguez who took 32.5 percent. Davis had a much closer race. He won out over Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan by a margin of just 3,700 votes.
But Illinois Congressional races generally went towards the Democrats. The 6th District went to Sean Casten over Republican incumbent Peter Roskam. Lauren Underwood came out over Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 14th. These races were part of the Democrats retaking of the US House of Representatives. Illinois now has 13 Democratic and 5 Republican Congressional Representatives.
Even in the races they won, Republicans have reasons to be concerned. LaHood received 57,000 fewer votes in his rematch against Rodriguez than he did in 2016. Rodriguez’s total dropped just 3,000 votes. Davis faced a similar situation. Where the Democrats actually gained 5,000 votes in the 13th, Davis’ total declined by 52,000.
While a win is a win, even these high points of last night’s election should be worrying to the Illinois Republican Party.
Sales tax and township consolidation propositions pass
In addition to the candidates running for office, there were several questions on the ballot for voters in Sangamon County. One question was if Capital Township should be consolidated with Sangamon County. The other was if there should be a one percent sales tax to help schools pay for facility improvements.
Both questions passed. The township question passed handily with 75 percent of the vote. The sales tax was approved much more narrowly, 53 to 47 percent.
Because it was a non-binding question, the township vote will do nothing by itself. It will, however, strengthen the case for the county and township to consolidate.
The sales tax referendum was a binding question, and will go into effect July of 2019. It is expected to raise about $10 million for District 186, and another $10 million for other districts in Sangamon County.