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Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios also facing a second court fight in dispute over authority

Updated: April 19, 2013 6:14AM

C ook County Assessor Joe Berrios has another legal battle looming.

In addition to his fight with the Cook County Ethics Board over keeping three of his family members on his payroll, Berrios has ignored a subpoena from Patrick Blanchard, the county’s inspector general, over an allegation that one of the assessor’s employees improperly was given a property-tax break.

Lewis Towers, a manager in Berrios’ office, got homeowner’s exemptions on two homes. That property-tax exemption is supposed to be given for only one home, a person’s primary residence. Blanchard issued the subpoena last year, seeking documents from the assessor’s office.

Berrios wouldn’t comply, arguing, much as he has in his fight with the ethics board, that the county inspector general doesn’t have the authority to investigate his office.

Now, Blanchard says he’ll sue Berrios to force him to comply with the subpoena.

“The people need clarity, so they’ll know when they come to this office and file a complaint, that action will ensue,” Blanchard says.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office is representing Berrios in the case. This month, a judge appointed Chicago lawyer Alexander Polikoff as a special state’s attorney to represent Blanchard.

In 2006, Polikoff represented David Hoffman when Hoffman, then City Hall’s inspector general, was fighting Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration to obtain contract documents. Hoffman now represents the Ethics Board in its fight with Berrios over the nepotism allegations.

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