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Two Republicans face off in the Cook County Board of Review District One

Updated: February 20, 2012 1:35PM

Dan Patlak says he’s the “firewall” on the Cook County Board of Review who keeps the dominant Democrats from engaging in unchecked favoritism.

But Sean M. Morrison says the real firewall the board needs is one that would separate Patlak from campaign contributions given by property tax attorneys who appear before him.

Patlak, 49, and Morrison, 44, are March 20 Republican primary opponents in the Cook County Board of Review’s District One, which covers the northwest and southwest suburbs as well as the western and southern edges of the county. The district stretches from Chicago Heights on the south to Barrington on the northwest.

Patlak lives in northwest suburban Wheeling. Morrison lives in southwest suburban Palos Park. The primary winner in the Republican-leaning district will face Democrat Casey Thomas Griffin of Midlothian in the fall.

The seats in the other two Board of Review districts are uncontested in this election.

The review board’s job is to adjudicate appeals from property owners who want to lower their assessments. The stakes are high; a favorable ruling can mean big reductions in property taxes for those who appeal – as well as off-setting small increases for everyone else.

Patlak, the incumbent commissioner, has the longer resume. Before being elected to the review board in 2010, he was Wheeling Township assessor for four years. He was a staff analyst for the review board from 1999 to 2006 and has been a licensed real estate broker since 1986. He also says he is the review board’s only full-time commissioner.

Morrison is founder and CEO of Alsip-based Morrison Security, a company with more than 1,000 employees that its website says provides “commercial and industrial security services, employee and guest safety, special event staffing and investigations.” He has never held public office.

The race is a rerun of 2010, when Patlak and Morrison also squared off in the primary. Patlak won that race 53 percent to 47 percent, beating Morrison by about 4,700 votes.

Patlak says he’s been an effective firewall against favoritism. He points out there have been no scandals at the review board since he joined it in 2010.

But Morrison accuses Patlak of participating in “pay to play” by soliciting contributions from property tax attorneys who appear before him. Morrison says 90 percent of the $361,000 Patlak raised through last September came from those attorneys.

Patlak defends the contributions as the only way he can pay for a campaign against Morrison, whom he says is largely self-financed. Patlak also accuses Morrison of really being a Democrat, a no-no in a Republican primary. Patlak says Chicago Board of Elections records show that until Morrison ran as a Republican two years ago, he always voted in Democratic primaries and that Morrison has donated money to Democrats.

Patlak also is critical of a “salacious,” never-aired TV show he says Morrison produced that featured scantily clad women engaging in martial arts fighting.

Morrison did not comment for this story. But in response to the charges that he is secretly a Democrat, Morrison earlier pointed out that he is the Palos Township Republican committeeman. He also says that his finance, accounting, management and technology background make him the better candidate for the review board.

­— Sun-Times Editorial Board

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