August 5, 2009

Questions the Cook County Board of Review May Not Answer

Filed under: Uncategorized — cookcountyexposed @ 2:39 am

In light of the fact that the Board of Review (BOR) has decided to reverse a decision that was made by all 3 sitting commissioners and arbitrarily increase the taxes on 4 properties in the midst of an unprecedented downturn in the real-estate market and a severe recession, I think these questions follow.  Is the BOR playing politics, playing to Fox News and an Internet blogger, or is there really any logic to their application of the great power they wield over every real-estate property owner in Cook County?  Their “internal process” as is so often referenced by Commissioner Larry Rogers, Jr., is admittedly mysterious-perhaps more of an art than a science.  However, I do not think the recent activities at the BOR should be comforting to any property owner in Cook County.  I am submitting the following questions in an effort to assist you in getting to the truth of this matter because it is so important to every property owner in Cook County.  We Need more transparency in County government for the benefit of ordinary citizens, not unchecked and unbalanced power over people’s property interests.

1)     Is it not true that if the new assessments issued by the BOR last week are correct, then the previous BOR decision to lower the assessments must have been wrong?  What were the grounds for granting the reductions in the first place?

2)     On what basis did the BOR mistakenly lower the previous assessments?  What factors were in error?

3)     In ad valorem property tax systems (and 35 ILCS 200/9-145 –West’s Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, specifically, notes 30, 33-35), there are 3 generally accepted approaches to determining market value: Market value, Income approach and the Cost approach.  Which of these 3 are/were used in determining the market value and subsequent assessment on appeal of the 4 properties in Cook County?  Is the BOR using any other approaches to value?

4)     Since all 3 Commissioners initially voted for the reduction?  Which one of them or were all of them wrong?

5)     Do all 3 Commissioners have separate written documentation and notes to support their initial reductions on the 2 hotel properties?  How many analysts work a complaint, just one or one from each of the Commissioners staff?  What methodologies, standards and practices are used to insure a uniform, fair and accurate assessment?

6)     Deputy Commissioner Guetzow is quoted in the Daily Herald (July 31st) stating about the hotels, “We didn’t determine anything unethical, but with additional evidence, it bears out they should be a little higher.”  What is that specific evidence that suggests assessments of these two income-producing properties should be raised during a period of declining income? What approaches were used in the determination of value?  Was USPAP (“Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice”) followed?  The standard of a governmental body is to produce assessments that are uniform, how as this achieved in relation to the other hotels?

7)     Isn’t the BOR acting in an arbitrary, capricious and confiscatory manner by disregarding market evidence of crashing real estate values?  It is strange to increase assessments in the worst commercial real estate market some would say in 3 decades and in a severe recession, is it not?

8)     Can’t the BOR be accused of acting arbitrarily and capriciously in disregarding the state of the real economy and the commercial and industrial real estate market?

9)     Are any of the 3 Commissioners running for County Assessor in 2010?  If so, could there be any possible political motivation involved in the internal investigation as a way for one Commissioner to try and discredit the other in advance of the 2010 election?

10)   Is this fair to the real estate taxpayers involved?  Are they the pawns in a 2010 election contest between the Commissioners-in obvious violation of the equal protection clause, USPAP, et. al.?

11)   Isn’t it a fact that all three Commissioners raise tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the lawyers who plead cases before the same Commissioners?  Is there not a manifest conflict of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict, when Commissioners decide cases argued by their biggest donors?  Or can we think that it is only legislators and aldermen who are influenced by large campaign contributions?

12) What steps does the BOR take to ensure that the real estate tax attorneys that make campaigns donations to each of the Commissioners do not receive preferential treatment?  Isn’t it true that many politically influential law firms have huge real estate tax appeal practices?  Is it not also a fact that many of them have made substantial contributions to one or other of the 3 Commissioners?

13)   Do real estate taxpayers who do not use lawyers that make huge campaign contributions have less favorable outcomes than the ones that do?

14) Is there any proof anywhere that this is true?  (Either way 13 is answered)  In other words, is it not true that there is no existing check and balance (anywhere in the BOR’s “internal processes”) or ANYWHERE for that matter to address this?  Is this not quid pro quo?

15)   Few if any township assessors are lawyers as well as Alderman, Committeemen, Mayors, or community civic association presidents; when they give advice to property owners about appeals before the BOR, are they violating BOR Rule #1 or practicing law without a license?   (The BOR can make reasonable rules for those who practice before it pursuant to 35 ILCS 200/9-5). Are Mayors, Alderman, Committeeman, Civic Association Presidents, and Township and other community and civic leaders able to give aid to taxpayers?  If they are exempted, how does this not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution? If one neighbor advises his friend to file a complaint then he is in violation of BOR Rule 1-doesn’t this rule violate the right of free speech and freedom of association?

16)   Are the results different with an Attorney, or certain Attorneys that make political contributions than with a taxpayer representing himself?  Is Rule 1 a payback to Attorneys?  Is this not arbitrary, capricious, and confiscatory via tax or fees?  What has an Attorney have to do with uniformity, hire one and get a reduction- don’t and an increase?

17)   Is it standard practice to raise an Assessment on a property without an under assessment complaint being filed?  Indeed without an under valuation complaint filed by either a taxing body or a taxpayer-how is this not a violation of double jeopardy?

18)   Under Illinois Statute (35 ILCS 200/5-5), isn’t it a fact that the Commissioners cannot have any other employment than at the BOR?  Then is it true that Larry Rogers has a law practice?  Do the other 2 Commissioners have outside jobs? Aren’t the taxpayers subsidizing this practice?

19)   State of Illinois Statute (35 ILCS 200/5-5) says that Commissioners are to have no outside employment, Chairman Rodgers is a partner in a law firm, how do they handle Property Tax problems? Do he and his staff excuse themselves so as to not taint the process?  Does his firm refer the clients to another firm?  Is there a referral fee?  Do these firms in turn refer clients to his firm?  Do any of the BOR’s “internal processes” keep track of this-does Anyone keep track?

20)   By changing the rules and procedures mid Assessment Cycle is not the BOR in violation of ex post facto?

21)   By considering sending out a notice to appear before a board hearing and considering sending it via the Sheriff’s office and/or registered mail to make the taxpayer believe that they are being subpoenaed, when the BOR has no such powers under Illinois Statute, how is that not a possible violation of mail fraud statutes?

22)   Has anyone at the BOR heard rumors of a class-action lawsuit resulting from the recent actions of the BOR and claims of arbitrariness and against the BOR, Assessor and the government of Cook County, due to the violations of   USPAP, and the arbitrary, capricious, and confiscatory taxation of its property owners, the violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, violation of double jeopardy, violation of ex post facto and the production of an unfair, not uniform, and inaccurate assessment?  What will be the ramifications to real estate taxpayers in Cook County and the BOR from a seemingly inevitable class-action lawsuit?


1 Comment »

  1. In light of the fact that there is pending litigation in this matter, I think it is fair that I suspend all comments on this blog temporarily. Thank you for your interest and I hope you will visit again for more commentary and opinion on other topics. Once again, thanks-
    Tamara de Silva

    Comment by cookcountyexposed — August 17, 2009 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

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