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County to pay $190,000 in tax snafu

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County sold his house out from under him and wouldn't offer him a dime for five years.

In 1996, Jeremiah Davison went to the county treasurer's office to pay the real estate taxes on his South Shore home and was told he didn't have to -- they already had been paid.

Unknown to Davison, another homeowner with a similar Property Index Number had paid the taxes on her home, and those taxes were applied to Davison's home instead.

The woman later realized the error, and a county employee -- without ever notifying Davison -- refunded the money that had been applied toward Davison's home to the other homeowner, making Davison's home delinquent again.

County officials said they notified Davison multiple times that he would lose his home if he did not pay the taxes, but Davison said he never got any letter.

They also note he was chronically late paying his taxes.

Nephew wouldn't give up

Davison's nephew Charlie Jones went to the Cook County treasurer's office and was told there was nothing they could do for him. He went to the Cook County clerk's office and was likewise told they could not help him. He went to the Cook County Board and asked members of the board for help. He filed a lawsuit but the lawyer missed a filing deadline and the suit was thrown out.

But Jones did not give up, showing up at County Board meetings to argue his case. County officials used to wince as they'd see Jones coming down the hall. Sometimes they would ask security to escort him out.

But Jones' dogged persistence paid off Tuesday as the county agreed to pay Jones' uncle $190,000 -- the fair-market value of his home. Judge Robert W. Bertucci approved the settlement.

"I'm leaving town," said Davison, who lives in Park Forest but plans to move to a home he has purchased in northern Louisiana.

Jones, who lives in Michigan, said "it always makes you feel good when you're able to help people -- especially family."

Lawyers said he didn't have case

Though he has no law degree, Jones said he thoroughly read case law on the issue and now "I wouldn't mind being an ombudsman for other people in similar situations."

"Nobody ever gave him an opportunity to explain his side," Jones said of his uncle. "A lot of elected officials said it's not their jurisdiction, attorneys said he didn't have a case and they couldn't help him, and I'm sure it's a maze many other people find themselves in."

In April 1996, Certacq Inc. purchased the delinquent 1994 property taxes on the house at 6500 S. Ellis. The tax certificate was then twice transferred.

The agreed order filed Tuesday says Davison "through no fault of his own, failed to redeem the taxes," but the deed was issued in 2000 to CARF Realty, which has since sold the property.

The $190,000 house price will come from an indemnity fund paid for by people who purchase tax delinquent properties.

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