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Board of Review District 1, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Griffin
Griffin
Birthdate: 8/13/1960
Occupation: Deputy Recorder of Deeds/Cook County
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Mary Lynn Griffin

Education:

Graduated from Tinley Park High School
Attended the University of Nebraska
Graduate of Heat and Frost Insulators Apprentice Program

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Member of: International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT), National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials, and Clerks (NACRC), National Association of Counties (NACO), Sister Counties Board Member, Heat and Frost Insulators-Local 17

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Deputy Recorder of Deeds, Cook County; Bremen Township Highway Commissioner

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None

Campaign information
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    Griffin
Griffin

Campaign headquarters: 407 S. Dearborn, ste 1125, Chicago, IL 60605
Website: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Citizens-for-Casey-Griffin/114893675281962
Campaign manager: Greg Goldstein
Campaign budget: I will raise enough money to run a competitive race.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Casey Griffin $1000
Dan McLaughlin $1000
Operating Engineers-Local 399 $500
Heat and Frost Insulators-Local 17 $500
MDE Thermal Technologies Inc. $500

Critics say that because Board of Review commissioners are elected and have to be re-elected, there's a tendency for them to grant tax relief to property owners who file. Do you see this as a problem, and if so, how do you plan to deal with it?
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    Griffin
Griffin

Historically, there has been a perception that the Board of Review granted property tax relief to help the re-election chances of the commissioners elected to the Board. Since I am not an incumbent and do not currently serve on the Board of Review, I cannot state as to the reality of that perception. I do, however, believe that the Board of Review must do everything it can to restore taxpayers' faith in the system.
As commissioner, I would seek to implement three reforms to address this issue. First, for all commercial properties, I would demand that attorneys a) write extensive briefs that detail the reason for the requested relief and b) submit clear and convincing evidence to support that request. Without that evidence, I would deny any relief for the commercial property. Second, I would require each of the hearing officers to thoroughly document the reason for any relief given, including but not limited to, writing out the exact mathematical formula used to give the desired relief. Finally and most importantly, I would seek to implement a system that would allow the public to see immediately online both the attorney evidence and the hearing officer's conclusions, thereby eliminating the need for FOIA requests and cumbersome review of paper files. I feel these policies would help to restore the public's faith in the system.

The Board of Review has been criticized for giving larger amounts of relief to businesses than to homeowners. In the past, the difference has been estimated as $3 of relief for commercial property for every $1 for homeowners. Do you consider this a problem? If so, what would you do to rectify that?
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    Griffin
Griffin

I do believe that there is a perception that commercial properties and their politically connected attorneys have been given unwarranted relief at the expense of homeowners. Again, I am not an incumbent and cannot state as to whether that perception is a reality, but I can say that as a newly elected commissioner, I will do everything I can to eliminate that perception. I believe that the reforms I outlined above, including immediate access to evidence filed and attorney notes, will go a long way toward ensuring that commercial properties do not get one penny more in relief than they deserve.
In addition to those reforms, I would do everything in my power to ensure that homeowners understand their appeal rights and receive a full and fair hearing at the Board of Review. First, I would institute an extensive public relations campaign in association with community groups, homeowners associations and municipalities in my district. This effort would utilize public access television, town hall meetings, and internet social networking to explain the appeals process and help homeowners file appeals. Second, I would seek to partner with every park district and public library in the County to make Appeal Forms and uncomplicated instruction booklets available to homeowners. Finally, I will be a full-time commissioner, with no outside employment, to ensure that I am available when the homeowners need me.

The year, the Cook County Board gave extra money to the Board of Review to ensure that property tax bills will go out on time. What will you do to make sure that happens?
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    Griffin
Griffin

Historically, the issuance of late tax bills has cost our schools and local municipalities millions of dollars. It is inexcusable that this problem has gone on for so long. While there are many factors that go into the issuance of the bills, including the involvement of several government agencies, the Board of Review undoubtedly shares in the blame.
To help ensure that tax bills go out on time, I pledge to open the Board of Review on time each year and to expeditiously work through the appeals. However, opening on time and working hard will not completely solve the problem. As commissioner, I will demand that the Board of Review end its dependence of paper. The current process involves the production of a paper file for every appeal the Board of Review receives. Then, these files are physically transported on carts from staff to staff. This manual process costs the Board of Review weeks of time. As Commissioner, I will bring the same proven technological improvements to the Board of Review that I brought to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office as Deputy Recorder of Deeds. I will push to fully automate the appeals process, which includes the requirement that attorneys file their paperwork electronically. Electronic files will allow the Board to cut costs and shorten timelines. In fact, this system could save the Board weeks and even months during the appeals process.
Finally, I believe that we must investigate the idea of consolidating some of the functions performed by various government offices. Currently, the Treasurer, Clerk, Board of Review, and Assessor all have a hand in getting out tax bills. We must review all of these systems to see if we can streamline the process.

What do you plan to do to improve transparency in how the board arrives at its decisions?
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    Griffin
Griffin

Again, I believe that the Board must work to restore the public's confidence in the property tax system. The first way to accomplish this is to make the Board's process completely transparent. The essence of the Board of Review is to act as a court-- hearing evidence and making decisions. Like other courts around the country, the Board of Review should make all of its decisions immediately available online. Currently, the Board only lists the numeric result of its decision online, but it does not show attorney evidence or the hearing officer's methodology that led to that result.

As the Deputy Recorder of Deeds for the Recorder of Deeds, I implemented an online system that allows the public to instantly see recorded documents on any piece of property in Cook County. As a Board of Review Commissioner, I would institute a similar system that would allow people to see not only the result of an analyst's decision, but also the methodology used for the decision and the evidence that supported it.

Will you accept campaign contributions from employees in your office?
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    Griffin
Griffin

Absolutely not.

The candidates
Casey Thomas Griffin
The office

The Board of Review oversees an property-tax appeal process for Cook County taxpayers. The three-member board has the power to set the final valuation of properties in Cook County.

The district
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