Feds Probe Pritzker “Toilet Gate” and Other Property Tax Breaks Given In Cook County

By Benjamin Cox on July 17, 2020 at 10:04am

llinois Gov. JB Pritzker and his wife, First Lady MK Pritzker, purchased a tan mansion (left) and red brick home (center) more than a decade ago in Chicago's upscale Gold Coast neighborhood. (WBEZ)

Federal prosecutors have issued a series of requests into the Cook County Assessor’s Office requesting records regarding the $330,000 property tax break that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mansions on Chicago’s Gold Coast – a break he got in part due to inoperable toilets during a stalled remodeling job.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that he U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has asked Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi for all emails and any other communications dating to 2012 regarding the tax break that Kaegi’s predecessor, Joseph Berrios, gave Pritzker. They have asked for information including the name of every employee who, under Berrios, “worked, reviewed and/or approved” the tax break for one of the two mansions Pritzker owns on North Astor Street. Pritzker reimbursed Cook County the full value of the tax break in 2018 prior to the November election where he unseated former Governor Bruce Rauner. An investigation by by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard prior to November called the removal of the toilets “part of a scheme to defraud taxpayers” week before the election and was regularly a talking point of attack ads.

Rather than obtain those names through subpoenas, prosecutors sent Kaegi’s staff a series of emails beginning January 17th that cited a wide range of specific records, which he has agreed to turn over, records show.

The prosecutors have also sought records of other property tax appeals to Berrios between 2010 and 2018 made on 118 properties throughout Cook County. Those include the United Center, Gibson’s steakhouse on Rush Street, a Bob Rohrman auto dealership in Schaumburg and several homes, including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s residence.

According to the Sun-Times report, many of the owners of the properties hired politically connected law firms to make their case to the Assessor’s office about overvaluing the properties. Among the law firms hired in those appeals were firms headed by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Chicago Aldermen Ed Burke and Steve Pearlman, who is a close friend of former Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley.

Berrios has been under federal investigation since December 5th, 2019. Burke is awaiting trial on federal charges of public corruption. The Pritzker Administration refused comment to the Sun-Times about the new revelations in the ongoing federal probe.