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2018 Election

Real estate experts say Prizker’s toilet troubles could be criminal

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Image from Pritzker's FaceBook page

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

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Illinois News Network, publisher of ILNews.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at ILNews.org. Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

2018 Election

Sangamon County city leaders endorse Jack Campbell for Sheriff

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photo from Jack Campbell's Facebook

Sponsored | Elected leaders from more than a dozen Sangamon County communities have endorsed former Undersheriff Jack Campbell’s bid for Sheriff, his campaign announced Wednesday.

In all, 21 mayors and village presidents from across Sangamon County endorsed Campbell, who is seeking to return to the Sheriff’s Office after spending the length of his 24-year law enforcement career there.

Campbell, who withdrew last year from consideration for U.S. Marshal to run for the office, said he hopes the endorsements will translate into Sangamon County voters giving him and the mayors and village presidents the chance to work together on their behalf.

“Collaboration, along with accountability and modernization, has been a pillar in my campaign,” Campbell told the Springfield Daily. “I’m glad to know so many local leaders throughout Sangamon County know they would have me as a partner in protecting their communities.”

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office serves as the primary law enforcement agency for communities without their own police officers.

If elected Sheriff, Campbell said he hopes to meet regularly with local law enforcement leaders within their communities to allow for public town hall meetings. He said these meetings had been held at the Sheriff’s Office, but that relocating them would open a new line a dialogue between the public and its chief law enforcement officer.

Those mayors and village presidents endorsing Campbell are:

Tom Berola, Auburn
Ted Stead, Jr., Cantrall
Dave Kimsey, Chatham
Paul “Dee” Smith, Dawson
Jim Copelin, Divernon
Louis Ochs, Jr. of Grandview
Sam Rogers of Illiopolis
Jill Egizii of Leland Grove
Alan Mann of Loami
Robert Van Pelt, Mechanicsburg
Michael Krall, New Berlin
Jeff Clarke, Pawnee
Darrell Blair, Pleasant Plains
Tom Rader, Riverton
Joe Suerdieck, Rochester
Trevor Clatfelter, Sherman
Nora Petrosky, Southern View
Brian Cuffle, Spaulding
Rob McMahan, Thayer
Tom Yokley, Williamsville

Sponsored article by Jack Campbell for Sheriff.

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2018 Election

Gray, Cavanagh discuss Capital Township question

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Illinois is notorious for having too many units of government. But a November ballot question may help get rid of one here in Springfield.  The Capital Township Board of Trustees put forward a ballot question to merge the township with Sangamon County. Due to the township’s unique structure, there is already considerable overlap in both functions and personnel with the county. Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray and Sangamon County Treasurer Tom Cavanagh, whose jobs serve both the county and the township, spoke with us about the case for consolidation with the county.

Tax savings are the main driver for the move. A consolidated township would save taxpayers well over $500,000 per year. These savings would be returned to taxpayers in the form of a more than 25 percent tax cut. They also highlighted the county’s strong financial position, and the good fiscal management the county has demonstrated over the years.

In addition to the positive case for the county’s proposal, they also countered many of the arguments made by Mayor Langfelder in his bid to have the city take over the township. Property assessment for taxation is one of the main things that Capital Township does. Gray explained that while the county has a plan for assessment, the city has no such plan or the infrastructure to do so. He said creating a new system would be both very difficult and expensive. The county, however, already has these systems.  Gray also took issue with Alderman McMenamin’s claim that the proposal was a cash grab by the county. Gray said that if anyone is making a cash grab, it is the city that needs new tax revenue, not the county.

Cavanagh took on the question of road maintenance. Proponents of the Mayor’s proposal say that because the city handles road maintenance in the township, something townships normally handle, the city has a stronger case to take over the other functions. But while Cavanagh admitted the city does handle the roads, he pointed out that Capital Township never dealt with road maintenance, and so it is really a non issue. He went on to say that Capital Township is different even from other coterminous townships, and so other examples are often not “apples to apples” comparisons on what should happen here.

The Ballot Question

The township’s question will be appearing on the November 6th ballot. It is a non-binding advisory question. Only Capital Township residents will be able to vote on the question. Cavanagh stressed that while the question is to merge with the county, the referendum was pushed by the township, not the county. The mayor’s question will not appear on the November ballot because the Springfield City Council declined to endorse it.

Even though there is support in both the township and the county for the merger, it will still need some legislative support from the General Assembly. Fortunately, there is already bipartisan support lined up to help eliminate redundant units of government. Because the township and the county both support merging with the county, it is unclear what impact the Mayor’s proposed referendum in April may have on the process.

You can watch our full interview in the player above. You can also learn about the mayor’s competing question here.

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2018 Election

Minority campaign staffers sue Pritzker, claiming discrimination

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Photo from J.B. Pritzker's Facebook page

A group of African-American and Latino campaign staffers have filed federal discrimination charges against billionaire J.B. Pritzker, Democratic hopeful for Illinois governor.

The suit alleges Pritzker’s campaign routinely marginalizes minority workers.

“Although they hire African Americans and Latinos as campaign workers, the vast majority are herded into race-specific positions where they are expected to interact with the public, offered no meaningful chance for advancement, and receive less favorable treatment than their white counterparts who engage with, as the campaign sees it, a more desirable constituency,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit comes just weeks before Pritzker will face Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner in one of the most expensive state elections in national history.

The complaint also alleges that the campaign placed minority staffers in “unsafe locations,” placing them in danger.

The lawsuit says that the campaign workers asked when Pritzker would visit their office. They say the campaign responded, “He’ll visit when they stop shooting.”

Pritzker’s campaign was not immediately available for comment, but Pritzker’s Lt. Gov. candidate, Juliana Stratton, said in a statement that “we had a letter delivered to us asking for $7.5 million dollars in 24 hours or they threatened legal action and to go to press. That’s not a good faith effort.”

Shay Allen, a Chicago-based civil rights attorney who represents the plaintiffs, says Stratton’s statement is false, adding that Stratton has never reached out to any of his clients despite their complaints to the campaign.

“I have no idea how the person who made that statement could make those claims,” he said. “I’m positive that she’s never spoken to my plaintiffs.”

Allen said his clients were treated poorly.

“There were instances where they were spoken to very unprofessionally,” he said. “There were instances of physical intimidation.”

Allen said his clients are asking for more effort on behalf of Pritzker’s campaign to include minorities in positions of consequence, something he claims has almost exclusively gone to white staffers.

“Almost all of them have prior [campaign] experience,” he said. “A couple have come from other states to help with the campaign.”

Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Travis Sterling said Pritzker must answer for his actions.

“Here, we have his own staffers – seasoned political operatives – alleging racial discrimination and harassment,” Sterling said. “We have heard from Pritzker’s own mouth referring to black elected officials as ‘offensive’ on an FBI wiretap with Rod Blagojevich. It’s finally time for J.B. Pritzker to answer for his actions.”

The suit was filed Tuesday in the northern federal district of Illinois. The plaintiffs, Maxwell Little, Jason Benton, Jelani Coleman, Celia Colon, Kasmine Calhoun, Erica Kimble, Nathaniel Madison, Tiffany Madison, James Tinsley, and Mark Walker, are represented by Shay T. Walker. The Chicago defense attorney’s firm represented one of the three officers that were fired for beating a man in 2015.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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