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oe "THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS TON PRECKWINKLE. (OPICE OF THE INDEP PATRICK M. BLANCHARD, PRESIDENT IECTON GENERAL September 28, 2018 Confiden Honorable Joseph Berrios ‘Cook County Assessor 118 North Clark Street Chicago, TL. 60602 Re: ONG Summary Report No, 11G17-0182 (Reassessment of Property at 1431 North Astor Street, Chivago) Dear Assessor Berrios; This lever is written in accordance with Sect and 2-288 of the Independent Inspector General Ordinance, Cook County, I. Ordinance No. 07-0-52 (2007), relative w the investigation conducted in this matter. The following is « summary of the investigation, Investigation No. 11G17-0182 Subject: Cook County Assessor's Office (CCAO) Allegation: Cook County Ethies Ordinance, See. 2-571(a) and (b) - Failure to Fulfil Fidueiary Duty to the County in Performance of Public Duties Disposition: Not Sustained as to alleged Failure to Fulfill Fiduciary Duty: however, the CCAO was the vietim of swom affidavits containing false representations relating to the condition of a residential property (as detailed in this report, Background May 2017, various media outlets reported that gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker bought a historic mansion on Chieago’s Gold Coast (at 1431 North Astor Street) next door 10 personal residenee (at 1435 North Astor Street), et the historic mansion fall into disrepair, and then had his property tax lawyers argue that it was “vacant and uninhabitable.” More specifically, it was reported that the toilets had been disconnected, the home hed “no functioning bathrooms or Kitchen.” and Mr. Pritzker's lawyers convineed the CCAO to reduce its assessed value from $6.25 million to just under $1.1 million. It was also reported that due 0 reduetion in the property's assessed! value under the so-called “Vacancy Reliel Provision.” Mr. Pritzker oblained $13. refunds of property taxes paid for 2012, 2013 and 2014, in addition to receiving finure & DENT INSPECTOR GENERAL, September 28, Reportedly, the reduction in the property's assessed value resulted in a total of nearly $230,000 in property tax relief and refunds (as of the time of the media reports). According to media reports, the CCAO based its decisions on an appraisal done by & company hired by Mr. Pritzker's lawyers 1 was further alleged that Mr. Pritzker's relationship with Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios ~ who a the time was also the Cook County Democratic Party Chairman ~ allowed Mr. Pritzker to get the property tax breaks on both of the homes.! OuG During the course of this investigation, our office obisined and examined ostensibly all the records in the CCAO's possession relating to the subject property's 2015 and 2016 assessed valuation appeals and its 2012, 2013 and 2014 Certificate of Ezror applications. We also facilitated searehes of CCAO emails to identify any communications relating to the subject property and its owners, and obtained email correspondence between the CCAO and a Chicago Stn-Times reporter concerning questions about the property's assessment. In addition, our office interviewed numerous CCAO employees whose duties or responsibilities included the processing, management, or decision-making associated with the property's appeals and applications for Certificates of Error, as well as acquiring records relating to the CCAO"s assessment valuation and appeal process. Furth obtained records from, and interviewed employees of, general contractors and subcontractors who performed work at the subject property. We also interviewed the appraisers who conducted an onsite inspection of the property and prepared an appraisal report which was submitted to the CCAO by the attorneys for the property owner, Information Provided by Deputy Assessor of Communications to Chicago Sun-Times Prior to the publishing of a May 2017 article in the Su1-Times. a Sun-Times reporter (“the Reporter”) obtained from the CCAO via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the property tax appeal file for 1431 North Astor Street (hereinafter “1431"). In the process of acquiring the appeal file and seeking claritying information regarding the appeal. the Reporter corresponded by email on 4 number of occasions with the Deputy Assessor for Communications, Government Relations, and Community Relations (“the Communications Deputy”)? Based on a review of the Communications: Deputy’s email, the Reporter's initial inguities concerning 1431 focused primarily on three questions: p: 1) Why did this [vacant] property receive Certificates of Errar? In rebuttal to the all ABC 7 News as say doesn't have any knowledge of aay appeal on any propert Communications Deputy also pointed-out that Mr. Pritzker’ CCAO released for the two properties. ‘AO the r cemail correspondence between the Reporter and the ions Deputy which included the dates of May 4 and 9, 2017. ate Cenif Frror (often referredte by the CCAO as a “C of E) allows the Cook County Assessor to change a property"s assessed value for a prior year, Illinois law provides this procedure as a way to correct a tx bill after the assessment for that tax year is linalized. A Certificate of Error addresses a fe year, Ia taxpayer is entitled to a value reduction for more thar one year, a Certificate of Frror request ion of political cronyism, the CCAO'S “Communications Deputy” was quoted by ng, “Assessor Berrios had no knowledge that this appeal was ever filed. In fact he wolving the Pritzker family at any’ time.” The ame is not mentioned in the documents the Honorable Joseph Berrios September 28, 2018, Page 3 2) Why were appeal reduetions granted on this [vacant] property’? 3) On what grounds does the CCAO base vacancy-related Certificates of Error or appeal reductions? The Communications Deputy addressed Question No. 1 by. ne the following information:* Let's take the appeals first, The 2015 appeal affected the Certificates of Error for Tax Yea 2012. 2013 and 2014, because the Certificates of Error take into consideration the Tax Year 201 appeal, Facts from the 2015 appeal include: Two ficld checks were done on this property in Tax Years 2015 and 2016. For the Tax Year 2015 report, the CCAO field inspector was unable to yet inside the home, reported the exterior was in good condition and the inside “appears habitable trom exterior.” If a property is classilied as habitable but totally vacant due to a verified rehab, CCAO puts the assessed valie of the improvement (house) at a 20% factor. However. upon appeal, the appellant established: A) No functioning kitchen, bathroom or other plumbing. 1B) Alfidavits verifying that the property was under rehab,* C) Appraisal saying the property was worth $2.5M. On Page 37 of the appraisul, identified are various issues. ‘They included internal deferred maintenance issues, water damage, lack of functional bathrooms, eviling and other-damage, non-functioning swollen doors which would not open, etc." The appraiser concluded the home could not be inhabited, D) 46 interior photos were provided, showing what the CCAO field inspector had been unable to see, ‘must be filed for each individual year. (This information is takon directly trom the CCAO's website under Property Taxes & Assessments FAQ.") * The information provided by the Communications Deputy in his emails to the Reporter egarding 1431 is presented as close to verbatim as possible. Some information has been condensed, andor clarified for purposes of readability; however, everything presented in this section vefleets information provided to the Reporter by the Communiations Deputy * None of the affidavits submitted for the 2015 appeal specifically stated the property “was under reha (Note: A “Vacaney/Occupan ed for 2016 (notarized on October 13, 2016) stating that no attempts were made to lease the vacant space because: “propery is uninhabitable due to need of renovation.”) Daring an OUG interview, the advised that he would have come-up with the terminology le and looking at it, or going to the people who worked on the file. ‘The Communications Deputy said that because it had been so long, he could not recall which it was, but he clarified that ie “either saw the affidavits oF was tld they exist.” “tn the appraisal report, the only reference to doors and windows not opening [due to swollen frames] were those leading 10 the deck area, * “There are no statements inthe appraisal to the effect that “the home could wot be inhabited.” On the appraisil stated, “In summary, this heme was in need of renovation.” During an OIG inter Communications Deputy said he did briefly read or skimmed the appraisal report, but did not remember any specifies about it. Tle remarked that [Jor me to write “page 37. 1 either saw item pie 37, or was told that it appears on page 37... by somebody who has credibility and honesty with me... fl that revard, he mentioned the names of the Deputy Assessor of Valuation and Appeals (the Valuation‘A ppeals Deputy”), the Director of Residential Valuations ("the Residential Valuations Director”), and the Manager of Freedom of Information (the FOL Mt