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No pay-to-play in the Cook County assessor's office

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Crain's Chicago Business
by Letter to the Editor by Fritz Kaegi

Juliet Sorensen and John Elson's recent op-ed makes points that are valid and important about legal practitioners who donate to elected officials even as their clients have cases before their offices ("A scandal Illinois lawyers and justices should no longer ignore," Nov. 11). But including the Cook County assessor's office in the list of those who continue to participate in such a practice is an error.

During my campaign for assessor, I promised not to take donations from lawyers, firms or other practitioners who do business with the assessor's office. It's a promise I have kept into the present day and will continue to do so in the future.

On my first day as assessor, I signed an executive order that made this promise a policy for our office. The order also forbids any political donations or activity by employees that would benefit the assessor. In addition, this order created a gift ban that forbids the acceptance by the assessor (or employees) of items of value from any person or firm with business before our office.

Property owners in Cook County should know I have put a stop to past practices that aligned with the corruptive influence of money in politics and will keep our office's promise of ethical, transparent and fair governance. I encourage other government offices within the property tax system to meet the same standard.

But as Sorensen and Elson would likely agree, the public should not have to depend on elected officials to swear off of pay-to-play politics. They're right to ask what other steps can be taken.

FRITZ KAEGI
Cook County assessor



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