The Cook County Board of Review put an employee on administrative leave after a federal court affidavit found he allegedly took thousands of dollars in cash to lower property tax bills.
In a statement released on Friday evening, the heads of the agency responsible for reviewing the ratings said they had “taken immediate action” to identify the worker, deprive him of board technology and “protect potential evidence.”
Audit committee commissioners Larry Rogers Jr., Michael Cabonargi and Tammy Wendt said they are “committed to full cooperation” in the ongoing federal investigation.
“The allegations against this employee are horrific. Not only are they illegal, but they add an unfair and undeserved blemish to the hundreds of honest and ethical board members who have worked hard to help Cook County’s citizens, ”said their joint statement.
The alleged plan of bribery was made public in an affidavit that the Chicago Sun-Times received last week.
It outlined an FBI investigation dating back at least January 2019 that involved an unnamed person who was secretly working with the FBI and is the subject of a separate criminal investigation.
This cooperating witness reportedly met with the Board of Review staff member in a Skokie parking lot earlier this year to hand over $ 21,000 as the first half of the payment to lower ratings for 18 commercial properties and seven residential properties.
A lower assessment means a lower real estate tax burden. The common rate for lower ratings was reportedly $ 2,000 per commercial property and $ 1,000 for residential property.
“I’m just the middleman,” the contract worker allegedly told the cooperating witness, insisting that the proceeds be shared with an unspecified number of colleagues on the review committee.
The federal agency’s affidavit included a photo of the employee holding the cash. “I’ll get out of this, 250’s f — ing my cut,” he reportedly said. “What, f — it. I don’t give an f —. I’m just the middle guy who pushes. “
Sources on the board said the employee at the center of the federal investigation has been a member of the administrative clerk’s staff since 1995, who does not have authority to sign in the review process.
The Sun-Times, which does not name him because records show he has not been charged, received the affidavit while it was publicly available on the court record. It is now sealed.
The US prosecutor did not want to comment on the investigation.