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Cook County Board of Review, District 1

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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
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    Patlak
Casey Griffin
Political party: Democrat
Birthdate: 8/13/1960
Occupation: Deputy Recorder of Deeds/ Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Mary Lynn Griffin

Education:

Attended the University of Nebraska
Apprentice Program-Local 17
Graduated from Tinley Park High School

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

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 Insulator, Local 17

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

Deputy Recorder of Deeds • 1999 to Present
Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office Chicago, Illinois

Bremen Township Highway Commissioner • 2005 to 2009

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

None

Dan Patlak
Political party: Republican
Birthdate: 3/13/1962
Occupation: Cook County
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Dulce Patlak

Education:

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Valparaiso University
Certified Illinois Assessing Officer
Licensed Real Estate Broker 1986-Present
Graduate of the Real Estate Institute (GRI)

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Parishioner, St. Joseph the Worker Church
Knight of Columbus Regina Council-4th degree
International Association of Assessing Officers
North Shore Barrington Association of Realtors
Illinois Association of Realtors
National Association of Realtors
Republicans of Wheeling Township
New Trier Regular Republican Organization
Elk Grove Regular Republican Organization
Schaumburg Township Republican Organization
Hanover Township Republican Organization
Taxpayers United of America
National Taxpayers Union

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

Wheeling Township Assessor 2006-2010
Analyst-Cook County Board of Review 1999-2006
Board Member-East Maine School District 63 1995-1997

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

Wheeling Township Assessor 2006-2010
Analyst-Cook County Board of Review 1999-2006

Campaign information
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    Griffin
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    Patlak
Griffin

Campaign headquarters: 407 S. Dearborn Suite 1125
Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizens-for-Casey-Griffin/114893675281962
Campaign manager: Gregory Goldstein
Campaign budget: Enough to be competitive
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
1. Casey Griffin
2. Dan McLaughlin
3. Local 399 Operating Engineers
4. Local 17 Heat & Frost Insulators

Patlak

Campaign headquarters: 113 Berkshire Drive, Wheeling
Website: www.ElectPatlak.com
Campaign manager: Ken Jochum
Campaign budget: I will spend whatever amount I need to win
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Cook County Farm Bureau PAC $6,500
Richard Uihlein $5,000
John O. Roeser $5,000
Davison Massey $3,500
Roger Stone $3,000

As the county continues to trim its budget, what cuts can you recommend for the Board of Review while still making it run more efficiently?
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    Griffin
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Griffin

In addition to opening the Board of Review on time each year, and expeditiously working through the appeals, I will demand that the Board of Review end its dependence on paper. The current process is laborious, in which a paper file is created for every appeal the Board of Review receives, then is physically transported on carts from staff to staff. This manual process costs the Board of Review weeks of time. As Commissioner, I plan to 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. An electronic system will allow the Board to significantly cut costs and shorten timelines. In fact, this system could save the Board weeks and even months during the appeals process.

Patlak

Budget time is always difficult. Each county office is competing with the others for scarce resources. Each year the Board of Review works with the President's office and the seventeen elected county commissioners to agree on a lean budget that allows the Board to fulfill its statutory responsibility to review assessment appeals in a fair and timely manner.

The Board of Review's budget has been relatively static for a long time despite a four-fold increase in appeals over the past twelve years. The Board has met this challenge by increasing the use of technology, cross training employees and establishing a fair and equitable comp-time system.

This past assessment review cycle, the Board of Review finished its work significantly earlier than in past years. That early closing allowed the Treasurer, Clerk and Illinois Department of Revenue to complete their work early as well and get tax bills issued by the statutorily required date of July 1 for the first time in 34 years saving millions in lost interest income for local governmental units and ultimately saving money for individual taxpayers. With an appropriate budget allotment, we believe we can duplicate that accomplishment for the current assessment review session and once again save millions for the tax payers of Cook County. Please review our 2012 annual report at http://www.cookcountyboardofreview.com/assets/pdfs/annualreport.

Our next step in efficiency is to go to a paperless system where all documents are submitted and reviewed by an analyst on a computer monitor. That step will take a significant capital investment and we are working with the President's office and the Bureau of Technology to make it a reality.

Would you accept campaign contributions from employees? Would you accept campaign contributions from lawyers who practice before the board? If you would accept either, would you place a limit on the contributions that come from those sources?
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    Griffin
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    Patlak
Griffin

I absolutely would not accept campaign contributions from employees. Commissioners should never ask for or accept any donations from a government employee that works for them. With regard to contributions from lawyers who practice before the board: I have voluntarily capped donations from attorneys and firms that practice in front of the Board of Review at $250.00. If elected, I will work with my fellow Commissioners to make this the law of the land. In contrast, my opponent has accepted more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from Tax Appeal Lawyers. While those are lawful donations, they do nothing to instill a sense of trust and transparency that is rightfully expected by the taxpayers of Cook County.

Patlak

I have not and will not accept contributions from employees. It is interesting to note that my opponent while promising to decline contributions from his employees if he is elected has made $11,000 in contributions to his current employer at the Recorder of Deeds office.

Regarding the acceptance of contributions from attorneys or for that matter any tax paying property owners, my answer is "yes." Here is why: I am not a wealthy person. Frankly, I do not know many wealthy people. I need to raise money to conduct a serious campaign. I accept contributions from some attorneys. I abide by all Illinois campaign fundraising rules and procedures. In addition, I have imposed limitations to refuse contributions from certain politically-connected firms.

I believe that every citizen has the right to contribute to campaigns of public servants who they believe are doing a good job. However, contributions should be transparent. Campaign contributions without transparency are insufficient to restore public confidence in the political system. Candidates now are required to report within a few days within an election cycle any contribution of $1,000 or more. I would support changing that requirement to $500 or more.

Also, while all citizens have a right to appeal their tax bill and to choose their own counsel, the public also has a right to know who is appealing, what contributions have been made and by whom, who is representing appellants and what results have been determined. The Board makes this information available by holding files for five years and providing them for inspection upon request to the general public, good government groups and the media.

Campaign contributions are completely transparent and available for review on the Illinois Board of Elections web site.

What will you do to make more information available to assure taxpayers that assessments are uniform and fair?
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    Griffin
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    Patlak
Griffin

I am confident that I can restore the confidence of the taxpayers in the review process. When taxpayers appeal their taxes, all they ask for is a fair shot. I propose to make the Board's process completely transparent by introducing the following specific reforms:

• The Cook County Board of Review Commissioners must be accountable for their operations. For all commercial properties, attorneys should a) write extensive briefs that detail the reason for the requested relief and b) submit clear and convincing evidence to support that request. If clear or convincing evidence is lacking, the case should automatically be rejected.

• Additionally, each hearing officer will thoroughly document the reason for any relief given, including but not limited to, presenting the exact mathematical formula used to give the desired relief.

• Most importantly, we need to implement a system that will provide the public with immediate online access to both the attorney evidence and the hearing officer's conclusions, thereby eliminating the need for FOIA requests and cumbersome review of paper files.

• Finally, I would like to add a word about technology. For far too long, the Cook County Board of Review has operated in a technological vacuum with an antiquated paper-dependent system. If elected, I propose to develop an electronic system that would make information available instantly and easy to access, for all involved. I will bring this office into the 21st Century.

Patlak

Fulfilling a pledge I made in the 2010 election campaign, I am the first full time commissioner at the Board of Review and take an active role in the Board's operations. Our office has already taken several initiatives to improve transparency in general including how we arrive at our decisions:
• Educating taxpayers was a key plank in my campaign two years ago. Therefore we have provided formal two hour tours of the Board to 27 of 30 suburban township assessors and their staffs. These tours include a formal power point presentation, question and answer sessions with our single family residential, condo and exempt property analysts and a physical tour of our offices and hearing room. Now, township assessors can share what they have learned with taxpayers who seek help from their local assessor.
• Since my swearing-in December 2010 my staff and I have conducted over seventy-five Assessment Appeal Seminars throughout my district which includes all or part of 28 townships and two Chicago Wards. I have been the presenter at all but four of those seminars teaching thousands of taxpayers how to prepare and file an appeal. This program has been met with approval by the public and we will continue as long as I am serving at the Board.
• My political web, site ElectPatlak.com includes an Education Center that has an "Ask Dan" section where questions from taxpayers about the Board can be asked and answered. We have also created short video answers to common questions. The Education Center includes additional pages where taxpayers can learn about property Exemptions and links to various county and state taxing offices.
• We have produced the first two joint Board of Review Annual Reports which details the duties of the Board along with statistical information on assessment appeals, budgeting, staff and reductions granted. Those reports can be found at www.cookcountyboardofreview.com.
• One of my staff members has served for the past two years as Freedom of Information officer at the Board. He created the first FOIA page for the Board's web site so residents can now read about how to file a Freedom of Information Request and then follow up by contacting the FOIA officer by fax with their request.
• A standard handout at the Board about how to prepare an appeal has been updated and improved.
• With many years of experience as a Township Assessor, a real estate broker and an analyst at the Board, I understand the need to continually educate the taxpayer in the assessment process and to that end I have been involved with many groups including the Farm Bureau, Realtors and others to educate their memberships and advocate for the taxpayer.
• The Board is currently working on a project to digitalize Board files. One benefit is that those files will be more accessible for review by the public.

Some people believe the board operates on a "squeaky wheel" principle, in which those who file appeals get lower assessments overall than those who don't. Is this true? If so, how can that be the optimal way for the board to operate?
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Griffin

It surely is NOT the optimal way for the board to operate, and it needs to end immediately. My opponent was recently asked about this "squeaky wheel" principle, and he answered that despite popular opinion to the contrary, firms with political connections do not have any more influence over the Board of Review than anyone else. But I ask: if this is true, then why have these firms given Mr. Patlak over $400,000.00 in two years? The people of Cook County are smarter than Mr. Patlak gives them credit for. This practice has to end, and I will end it.

Patlak

The Board of Review was created to provide an independent authority where property owners who believe they are over assessed can redress their grievances without having to go back to the same office that they contend made the original error. Of course, if you have reason to believe that your property is over assessed and you do not file an appeal, it is likely that you will pay more than your fair share of taxes. This is the same way Board's of Review operate in every other county in Illinois.

Would it be wiser and better for taxpayers to eliminate an elected Board of Review and switch to an appointed board?
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    Griffin
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Griffin

No, I think it is always better to allow and trust the citizens of Cook County to elect their officials rather than have an insider appoint them. I feel strongly that taxpayers should have a say in matters that affect them so profoundly, and in turn, the elected officials can (and should) be held accountable.

Patlak

No. It is better for voters to retain the authority to choose their Board of Review commissioners rather than having that authority and power vested to a single elected official.

Every year, a large number of appeals are granted. Does the county assessor really make that many mistakes?
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    Griffin
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Griffin

A professor once told me that the number one pastime in America is not baseball but the transferal of blame. To often our leaders are too busy pointing fingers and not doing the work of the people. As a full time Commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review I will dedicate every work hour of every day fixing problems, not blaming people. I have laid out my reforms that I will bring to the Board of Review and unlike my opponent I will end any perception that insiders are influencing the system. The citizens of Cook County are smart, they want solutions not finger pointing, I offer solutions.

Patlak

The Assessor's office uses a mass appraisal technique called regression analysis to compute a market value for each property. That system is relatively fast and efficient as it must be for the volume of parcels that must be assessed but is prone to some errors. The Board of Review analyzes property assessments individually using evidence provided by property owners and evidence available to the Board of Review from records provided by the Assessor. As a result, we are often able to help property owners who have been over assessed.

 

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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.

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