Lowering of questionable tax assessments reversed
Thursday, July 30, 2009
by Lisa Donovan
Owners of several suburban Chicago businesses who caught tax breaks
on their commercial properties are getting some bad news this week.
The Cook County Board of Review reversed its decisions to lower tax
assessments on two hotels, a small industrial property and an antique
and home furnishings store in Schaumburg in the wake of a criminal
probe as well as an internal investigation into whether political
favors were traded for successful tax appeals.
In April and May, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office subpoenaed
Board of Review records for two dozen tax appeals, including the four
cases reversed Wednesday, according to documents obtained by the
And Board of Review staff have been examining whether state Rep. Paul
Froehlich, along with a former staffer for Board of Review Cmsr. and
Cook County Democratic Party Chair Joseph Berrios, used political
muscle to obtain reductions
“Our investigation is to evaluate who is filing the appeals, to make
sure they’re being properly filed and to make sure our process isn’t
being compromised in any way,’’ Board of Review Cmsr. Larry Rogers Jr.
told the Sun-Times.
Bimal Doshi, one of the owners of the Comfort Suites, 1100 E. Higgins
Road, expects to appeal Wednesday’s decision to bump his hotel’s 2008
assessed value by 28 percent to $1,080,433. Owners had appealed the
$1.3 million assessed value in 2007 and the board approved a reduction
to $839,039, board records show.
Doshi’s tax break came under scrutiny this year after it was revealed he made contributions to Froehlich’s campaign.
“There was no impropriety that went on,’’ Doshi told the Sun-Times. “We made donations based on our political beliefs.’’
Mike Gray, owner of the property occupied by Treasure Hunt at 1230 N.
Roselle Rd., saw the property’s assessed value increase by nearly $1
His tax bill is projected to increase from $63,442 in 2008 to $235,945 in 2009.
In 2007, his assessed value was $831,035, but upon appeal it was
reduced to $351,259. Now the assessed value is $1.3 million. Gray
couldn’t be reached for comment.
Asked what prompted the changes, Berrios said: “There were some
questions raised as to what happened last year. We called . . . [the
property owners] in for a hearing and we determined where the
assessment should be.’’
He declined to talk about his former employee, political operative
Victor Santana, whose name came up repeatedly when property owners were
asked about who they worked with to file appeals, according to hearing
transcripts and board staff.
Gray testified in a June review board hearing that Santana’s fee was
$1,000 apiece for his work on appeals for 2006 and 2007. But only
property owners or attorneys can legally file appeals, board staff says.
Commissioners voted to ban Santana from the board’s private offices.
But Santana maintained, “I didn’t do anything wrong.’’
Froehlich also denies any wrongdoing.
“There was never any requirement, never any agreement for any
compensation. It was just me helping constituents who lived in my
district, asking for help,’’ said Froelich, a one-time assessor for
“I gave advice to folks on how to do appeals, and they did so
successfully up until today,’’ Froelich said Wednesday. He recently
announced he will not run for re-election.