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Democrat Joe Berrios gets punked in Valentine from political rival

A Valentines Day Ad Sun-Times thanking Joe Berrios for their jobs.

A Valentines Day Ad in the Sun-Times thanking Joe Berrios for their jobs.

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Updated: March 16, 2012 8:20AM

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios opened the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday to find a political Valentine that was more like a knife in the back than an arrow through the heart.

Among the Valentines on Page 44 of the Classifieds section was a note purportedly from his own family members expressing their love and gratitude for hiring them in to well-paying jobs in the assessor’s office.

“Happy V-day

“Uncle Joe,

“Thank you for the jobs and promotions.

“We couldn’t have gotten them without you.

“With love, the Berrios family”

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Berrios said “no not at all” when asked if they were some of the family members he hired to work for him after winning the assessor’s race in 2010.

“There’s someone out there who wanted to throw a little dagger at me politically, that’s all,” he said, adding “I just chuckled” after seeing it “and let it go.”

Providing the name of someone who takes out such an ad is against company policy, according to the Sun-Times legal counsel.

But Alonso Zaragoza, who is trying to unseat Berrios as 31st Ward Democratic committeeman in the March primary, didn’t hesitate to take credit for placing the ad, which cost less than $150.

“This is a grassroots campaign. We’re trying to do the most with what we have,” Zaragoza said with a laugh.

He said he’s hoping to expose Berrios.

“I want them to know that corruption isn’t acceptable in Chicago’s 31st Ward, nor is nepotism, nor patronage. And the community deserves a lot better,” said Zaragoza, 32, a librarian and resident of the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.”

When told who paid for the ad, Berrios fired back: “If that’s how low he thinks he’s got to stoop — then that’s up to him.”

“If he can’t put his name on something like that, it just shows how big a coward he is.”

Berrios was especially unhappy that his family’s name was falsely signed to the Valentine.

“It’s not fair — to say that one of my relatives wrote this,” Berrios said.

After taking office in December 2010, Berrios hired son Joseph “Joey’’ Berrios as a $48,000-a-year residential analyst and sister Carmen Berrios as director of taxpayer services at $86,000.

But county payroll records show the younger Joe Berrios, now chief of the land division, earns $68,288 annually while the assessor’s sister Carmen is making $107,841.

Last May, he promoted daughter Vanessa Berrios — hired more than a decade before her dad won the seat — and gave her a $10,000 raise so her salary is $68,288.48, county payroll records show.

“This is a year-old story — they do a good job,” Berrios said of his relatives on Tuesday.

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