WBEZ | Joseph Berrios http://www.wbez.org/tags/joseph-berrios Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios on property taxes, nepotism http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/cook-county-assessor-joseph-berrios-property-taxes-nepotism-101306 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5226_Saurez%20and%20Berrios%202%20CROP-scr.JPG" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="(WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Here&rsquo;s the good news: This year, property tax bills have arrived in Cook County mailboxes in record speed. The bad news? Many of those bills are up, despite lower home values.</div><p>The <a href="http://cookcountyassessor.com/index.aspx">Cook County Assessor&rsquo;s Office</a> is charged with setting property values to help determine each owner&rsquo;s taxes. Monday on <em>Afternoon Shift, </em>we talk with the man who oversees the office, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.</p><p>Berrios has been under fire lately for hiring his sister and son to work for him. The Cook County Board of Ethics recently slapped Berrios with a $10,000 fine and ordered him to fire them.</p><p>Berrios isn&rsquo;t backing down from his decision, though. He&rsquo;s challenging the ruling, citing a previous Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&#39;s opinion.</p><p>Earlier this month, he <a href="http://www.wlsam.com/Article.asp?id=2492445&amp;spid=">explained to WLS 890&nbsp; AM</a> that he doesn&#39;t see any harm in keeping his son and sister on staff:</p><p>&ldquo;Well as long as they&rsquo;re showing up for work and doing the work they&rsquo;re supposed to work, yeah, it&rsquo;s right. If you&rsquo;ve got someone who&rsquo;s a ghost payroller or someone not doing the job, then it&rsquo;s wrong. But as long as they&rsquo;re coming in and doing a good job, and I have great expectations for them, because I demand more of them than I do anything else.&rdquo;</p><p>Tune in Monday just after 3:30 to get the latest from Assessor Berrios.</p></p> Mon, 30 Jul 2012 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/cook-county-assessor-joseph-berrios-property-taxes-nepotism-101306 After fraud search, Illinois House challenger concedes defeat http://www.wbez.org/news/after-fraud-search-illinois-house-challenger-concedes-defeat-98719 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Guzzardi2scaled.jpg" style="margin: 6px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 295px; height: 196px;" title="Will Guzzardi prepares volunteers Sunday night for a canvass of 39th&nbsp;District voters. He lost a March&nbsp;20 primary to incumbent Rep. Toni Berrios, D-Chicago. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></div><p>Six weeks since the Illinois primary, a Democratic challenger who tried to unseat a clout-heavy state House member on Chicago’s Northwest Side is finally conceding defeat.</p><p>Political newcomer Will Guzzardi came within 125 votes of Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios, who has held the 39th&nbsp;District seat for five terms. He alleged irregularities with the March 20 balloting and mounted an extraordinary <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/door-knockers-seek-fraud-illinois-house-race-98650">search for fraud</a>.</p><p>But Guzzardi did not file a complaint with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners or contest the results in Cook County Circuit Court. The deadline for the court challenge was Monday afternoon.</p><p>“Our attorney has indicated that [our evidence] is probably not enough to sustain a formal legal complaint,” Guzzardi wrote in a Tuesday message to his supporters. “I am formally conceding the election. I’d like to congratulate Representative Berrios.”</p><p>Guzzardi told WBEZ his showing in the race means something: “The machine isn’t invincible. Right up to Election Day, people thought we were foolish for even trying to take it on. The close result proves that organized people and organized communities can stand up to entrenched power.”</p><p>The Berrios campaign has bristled at suggestions that she depended on help she received from Democratic leaders such as her father, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who chairs the party’s county organization. “If [Guzzardi] wanted to run against the machine, he should have run against Joe,” Berrios spokesman Manuel Galvan said on Election Night.</p><p>Guzzardi, 25, said he would consider running for office again. After campaigning full-time for seven months, however, the Brown University graduate said his immediate task was lining up a job.</p><p>“All the issues we raised in the campaign — schools, the economy, foreclosures, government reform — are still pressing,” Guzzardi said. “I want to keep working on them.”</p></p> Tue, 01 May 2012 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-fraud-search-illinois-house-challenger-concedes-defeat-98719 Door knockers seek fraud in Illinois House race http://www.wbez.org/news/door-knockers-seek-fraud-illinois-house-race-98650 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Guzzardi1CROPSCALEsmaller.jpg" style="height: 249px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Will Guzzardi prepares volunteers Sunday night for their canvass of voters in District 39. He lost a March 20 primary to incumbent Rep. Toni Berrios, D-Chicago, by 125 votes. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></div><p>After an extraordinary search for fraud, the losing candidate in an Illinois House primary last month says he is considering a last-minute legal challenge to expose “corruption” tied to one of the state’s strongest political chiefs.</p><p>Monday is the last day for 39th District challenger Will Guzzardi to file a petition in Cook County Circuit Court to contest his March 20 loss to Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios (D-Chicago), who won by 125 votes, or 1.58 percent, of the 7,917 ballots cast.</p><p>The Guzzardi campaign alleges more than a half dozen Election Day irregularities, including a missing precinct voter list, a poll that opened nearly an hour late and inappropriate contact between Berrios operatives and voters. A discovery recount, Guzzardi adds, turned up too many ballot application signatures that don’t resemble what appears on voter registrations.</p><p>On Sunday night, Guzzardi sent out five volunteers to finish a door-to-door canvass to see if those voters cast the ballots. “We want to make sure that voters in this district [and] people around the city can have faith in the election so we can make sure that elections represent the will of the people,” Guzzardi said.</p><p>Berrios spokesman Manuel Galvan said her campaign would not comment unless Guzzardi made his complaints formal.</p><p>“Will has been making these allegations since the election but has never filed them with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which is what you would do if you had allegations that you were able to substantiate,” Galvan said.</p><p>Board spokesman Jim Allen said door-to-door canvasses seeking signs of election fraud are rare. “I’ve never heard of it in my six years with the board,” Allen said.</p><p>The district includes parts of several Northwest Side neighborhoods, including Logan Square, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin. Berrios has represented it since 2003.</p><p>The Guzzardi campaign has aimed much of its criticism at her father, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is the county’s Democratic chair and the longtime committeeman of Chicago’s 31st Ward, which covers much of the district. Powerful committeemen often have some influence over the election judges in their ward.</p></p> Mon, 30 Apr 2012 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/door-knockers-seek-fraud-illinois-house-race-98650 Lobbying relationships cut across family ties http://www.wbez.org/content/lobbying-relationships-cut-across-family-ties <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-12/Mike Jacobs_CNC_Jose More.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-12/Mike-Jacobs_CNC_Jose-More2.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 413px;" title="State Sen. Mike Jacobs, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, sponsored a bill and actively promoted the campaign of the Commonwealth Edison Company, one of his father’s lobbying clients, to win its passage. (Chicago News Cooperative/Jose More)"></p><p>Denny Jacobs, a former state senator, had a special ally last year when the state’s largest electric utility company hired him to lobby for a controversial smart-grid energy bill that many say makes it easier for utilities to raise rates.</p><p>His son, State Sen. Mike Jacobs, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, sponsored the bill and actively promoted the campaign of the Commonwealth Edison Company, one of his father’s clients, to win its passage.</p><p>The downstate utility Ameren Corporation also backed it. “I’m with ComEd and I’m with Ameren on this bill,” Jacobs, a Democrat from East Moline, said in a floor speech. He even took to the floor to invite his colleagues to a reception hosted by ComEd. He denies that his father influenced him.</p><p>The smart grid legislation is one of several bills pushed by Senator Jacobs that benefited clients of his lobbyist father, a review of legislation by Medill Watchdog, a journalism program at Northwestern University, found. And Mike Jacobs is hardly the only Illinois public official supporting measures backed by close relatives.</p><p>Medill Watchdog examined statements of economic interests of public officials, lobbying registrations filed with the City of Chicago, Cook County and the state, and records of state bills and local ordinances. The investigation found 14 elected officials from Cook County alone who, while not lobbyists themselves, are related to or in business with lobbyists.</p><p>The review found more than a dozen instances in which an official took action that benefited the lobbying client of a family member or business partner.</p><p>Reformers say Illinois has a historic tolerance for corruption. “There are people who believe that’s just the way it’s done,” said Kyle McCarter, a Republican state senator from Lebanon. “Cultures don’t change overnight.”</p><p>At the state level, Illinois law leaves it to legislators to decide whether to recuse themselves from matters that present potential conflicts of interest. At the local level, public officials must disqualify themselves if they have an “interest,” but the law defines interest only as owning part of a company.</p><p>Some states are stricter. After a series of political scandals, Rhode Island adopted a constitutional amendment in 1986 demanding ethical conduct of public officials. The law there restricts officials from taking part in matters if they have direct or indirect financial interest. It restricts action in matters that benefit family members, including stepchildren or grandfathers-in-law, as well as restricting votes in cases that benefit business partners.</p><p>“Illinois law is really behind on this,” said Paula Franzese, a Seton Hall law professor and former chairwoman of New Jersey’s ethics commission.</p><p>Actual or potential conflicts are widespread, public records show.</p><p>Joseph Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, was also chairman of the county Board of Review when he was elected county assessor in 2010. All the while, he was a registered lobbyist and partner of the lobbying firm B-P Consulting. Since 2004, Berrios and his partner, Sam Panayotovich, have lobbied for the Illinois Coin Machine Operators, the group that makes and distributes video poker machines.</p><p>Berrios was a lobbyist in 2009 pushing a bill legalizing video poker when his daughter, State Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios, a Democrat from Chicago, voted to approve it. Ms. Berrios also supported bills to allow racetracks to install slot machines, another measure the coin operators favored.</p><p>Berrios said there was no conflict, because her father had not lobbied her directly. Her spokesman, Manuel Galvan, said, “The truth is she would have voted for it regardless, and her father really did not lobby her except for the first year she was in office,” in 2003.</p><p>On the night he won election as county assessor, Berrios repeated a campaign promise that he would give up his lobbying business. He no longer registers as a lobbyist, but state incorporation records still list him as an officer of B-P Consulting, and Panayotovich continues to lobby for the coin machine operators.</p><div class="articleInline runaroundLeft">A spokeswoman for Berrios said he is in the process of selling his share of the business to Panayotovich.</div><p>Last year, state Rep. Angelo Saviano, Republican of Elmwood Park, co-sponsored a bill in the House to help Mesirow Financial, a global investment firm, withhold some shareholder information when bidding on state contracts. Nicholas Saviano, Saviano’s brother, is the senior managing director of business development and a registered lobbyist for Mesirow.</p><p>“There is no connection,” Saviano said. “My brother is just an insurance salesman there. He didn’t even know about the bill.” Saviano said an outside lobbyist hired by Mesirow, William Filan, approached him to support the bill.</p><p>Few relationships are as striking as the one between Senator Jacobs and his father, the ex-senator. Lawmakers and lobbyists said the elder Jacobs often is found in his son’s Senate office, sometimes with his feet propped up on a desk.</p><p>“He is a lobbyist. I am a senator,” Sen. Jacobs said. “He doesn’t lobby me. There is no financial benefit,” he said, and he discloses the relationship on ethics statements. Denny Jacobs did not return phone calls seeking comment.</p><p>In 2007, Denny Jacobs received $9,000 from the Illinois Recovery Association, which represents auto-repossession businesses, to lobby for a bill that would regulate the industry more tightly, according to Rick Constantine, who led the association’s lobbying effort at the time. Sen. Jacobs introduced the bill, which died in committee.</p><p>Denny Jacobs registered last year as a lobbyist for the Rock Island Boatworks, which owns the casino in that city. Sen. Jacobs had sponsored a bill narrowly tailored to give the casino a tax break.</p><p>At the time Denny Jacobs was lobbying for the smart-grid bill last year, Sen. Jacobs took to the floor of the Senate and invited colleagues to a reception of “appetizers” and “liquid libations” hosted by ComEd. State records show that the company spent $3,818 on the reception and an additional $5,690 taking lawmakers to dinner that night.</p><p>During hearings before the Senate Energy Committee he oversees, Sen. Jacobs allowed less than 15 minutes of testimony before adjourning, sending the measure to the Senate floor.</p><p>The move denied Scott Musser, the associate state director of the AARP, the opportunity to express his opposition. “It was very suspect, especially on such a huge and controversial issue,” Musser said.</p><p>Sen. Jacobs said later, “I knew I had the votes, so I moved it.” When the measure came up for debate on the Senate floor, McCarter, the Republican senator, criticized Senator Jacobs for being the chief sponsor of a bill for which his father lobbied. Sen. Jacobs walked across the aisle and thumped McCarter on the chest.</p><p>McCarter later complained to Capitol police that Sen. Jacobs punched him; Senator Jacobs said he merely poked him. He apologized, and a local prosecutor declined to pursue the matter.</p><p>McCarter, a first-term legislator, said he felt disillusioned by the whole experience.</p><p>“It was a conflict of interest then, and it’s still a conflict,” McCarter said. “It’s the way things have been done for so long, they don’t even see it as wrong.”</p><p>Sen. Jacobs said that supporting a bill that benefited his father’s client did not involve a conflict because the legislation was “good for Illinois.” Many of his colleagues agreed, passing the law over the governor’s veto.</p></p> Wed, 11 Jan 2012 02:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/lobbying-relationships-cut-across-family-ties Berrios wins assessor race http://www.wbez.org/story/assessor/berrios-wins-assessor-race <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2010-November/2010-11-02/joe berrios courtesy of friends of joe berrios for assessor.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Democrat Joseph Berrios will be Cook County's next assessor, defeating independent Forrest Claypool.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Berrios had about 47 percent of the vote, compared with Claypool's 32 percent. Republican Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall had about 18 percent and the Green Party's Robert Grota received nearly 3 percent.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Berrios has been involved in Democratic politics since he was a teenager. He's a member of the county's tax appeals board.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>He's also faced criticism for his relatives' jobs and alleged tax breaks for friends and political donors.</p><p>Claypool conceded Tuesday evening. He's a county commissioner who was the former chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan is retiring.</p></p> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 02:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/assessor/berrios-wins-assessor-race Preckwinkle, Berrios among leaders in Cook County races http://www.wbez.org/story/assessor/preckwinkle-berrios-among-leaders-cook-county-races <p><div>With more than half of Cook County precincts reporting, Democrat Toni Preckwinkle has a big lead in the race to replace Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Democrat Joe Berrios currently leads Independent challenger Forrest Claypool in the assessor race.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,834 of 4,507 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Cook County Board President:</div><div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Toni Preckwinkle, Dem 551,491 - 68 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Roger Keats, GOP 228,058 - 28 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Thomas Tresser, Grn 33,401 - 4 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">^County Assessor Cook County</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,834 of 4,507 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Joseph Berrios, Dem 373,051 - 46 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Forrest Claypool, Ind 266,099 - 33 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall, GOP 152,038 - 19 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Robert Grota, Grn 21,563 - 3 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">^County Clerk Cook County</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,834 of 4,507 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">David Orr, Dem (i) 619,753 - 76 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Angel Garcia, GOP 191,265 - 24 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">^Sheriff Cook County</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,834 of 4,507 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Thomas Dart, Dem (i) 617,986 - 76 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Frederick Collins, GOP 164,036 - 20 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Marshall Lewis, Grn 29,622 - 4 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">^County Treasurer Cook County</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,834 of 4,507 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Maria Pappas, Dem (i) 617,072 - 76 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Carol Morse, GOP 195,921 - 24 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">&nbsp;</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">^Water Commissioner Cook County WatCom</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">2,790 of 4,423 precincts - 63 percent</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Michael Alvarez, Dem 402,316 - 23 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mariyana Spyropoulos, Dem 397,701 - 22 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Barbara McGowan, Dem 387,171 - 22 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Paul Chialdikas, GOP 243,115 - 14 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Jimmy Tillman, GOP 144,658 - 8 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Diana Horton, Grn 88,387 - 5 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Jack Ailey, Grn 58,743 - 3 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Nadine Bopp, Grn 55,138 - 3 percent</span></div> <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">3 to be elected.</span></div></p> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 01:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/assessor/preckwinkle-berrios-among-leaders-cook-county-races Toothache interrupts Cook County assessor candidate Forrest Claypool http://www.wbez.org/story/african-american-politics/toothache-interrupts-cook-county-assessor-candidate-forrest-claypool <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2010-November/2010-11-01/ClaypoolCROP.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Candidates across Illinois are trying to make the most of their last day before Tuesday&rsquo;s election. But a leading contender in a tight Cook County race had to step off the campaign trail for a few hours.<br /><br />Assessor candidate Forrest Claypool said his &ldquo;emergency&rdquo; began last night after Halloween trick-or-treating. &ldquo;I made the mistake of stealing my 9-year-old daughter&rsquo;s Tootsie Roll,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It was like a hydraulic lift on my cavity filling, and just pulled it right out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Before he knew it, Claypool was in a Hyde Park dentist&rsquo;s chair. The repair on Tooth No. 18 forced Claypool to cancel a Monday afternoon appearance at Manny&rsquo;s Deli, a frequent stop for politicians before Election Day. He hoped the Novocain would wear off in time to meet rush-hour commuters at the Roosevelt stop of CTA&rsquo;s Red Line.<br /><br />Claypool, a Cook County Board member, is running for assessor as an independent. His main competition is Cook County Democratic Chair Joe Berrios, a member of the Board of Review, the county&rsquo;s tax-appeals panel. Claypool accuses Berrios of arranging tax breaks for friends and political donors and criticizes him for helping put family members into government jobs.<br /><br />Berrios insists he hasn&rsquo;t played favorites at the Board of Review and calls himself an advocate for county homeowners. A spokesman said Berrios planned to spend his last evening of campaigning at a downtown event with Chinatown business leaders.<br /><br />One of the race&rsquo;s key battles is for black votes. On Sunday, both Claypool and Berrios spoke to African American congregations. The two are also running ads on black radio stations.<br /><br />The contest also includes Republican Sharon Strobek-Eckersall, a former Evanston Township assessor, and the Green Party&rsquo;s Robert Grota, a Cook County assessor&rsquo;s office analyst. <br /><br />The office sets the value of nearly every property in the county to help determine each owner&rsquo;s taxes.</p></p> Mon, 01 Nov 2010 21:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/african-american-politics/toothache-interrupts-cook-county-assessor-candidate-forrest-claypool