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County ethics chairman resigns after WGN-TV report

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

An appointed Cook County ethics official resigned his post one day after a news report revealed his political ties to Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is under an ethics spotlight for hiring his son and sister days after taking his current post, officials confirmed today.

John Pikarski Jr., the unpaid chairman of the county Board of Ethics, said his resignation has “nothing whatsoever” to do with a report by WGN-TV, Chicago Magazine and the Better Government Association that noted Pikarski’s law firm had donated thousands of dollars to Berrios’ political campaigns over the years.

“I had intended, when the new president was sworn in and the dust settled a little bit, to resign,” Pikarski said. “It’s been 19 years. I’m 68 years old. It’s appropriate.”

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has been in office about two months, today confirmed that Pikarski has resigned. “Chairman Pikarski felt he should resign, and that was an appropriate decision on his part,” she said.

Her aides provided a copy of Pikarski’s resignation letter, dated Tuesday, in which he states that “board presidents since 1992 have reposed their confidence in me, which confidence has never been breached.”

Pikarski is a prominent, longtime real estate zoning attorney whose firm, Gordon and Pikarski, represents clients before the county property tax assessment appeals panel on which Berrios served before winning the race for assessor in November.

Days into his tenure as assessor, Berrios hired his son and sister, both of whom had worked under him at the Board of (Tax) Review. Both received big raises.

County ethics rules state that officials cannot hire relatives who work under their direct supervision. The Board of Ethics is looking into whether Berrios’ hiring of his relatives violated those rules.

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