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How did nobody notice this?

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

* There was a time when newspapers had reporters in all the courts buildings. But this very significant ruling last Thursday didn’t get noticed until late yesterday afternoon

Cook County’s internal government watchdog recently won a round in his legal battle for authority to probe the offices of all countywide elected officials, but Assessor Joseph Berrios continues to challenge Inspector General Patrick Blanchard on the issue.

Circuit Court Judge Franklin Valderrama last Thursday ruled Berrios must comply with a Blanchard subpoena of documents relating to an assessor’s office employee who allegedly received a homeowner’s tax exemption to which he was not entitled. Berrios, who is represented by the state’s attorney’s office, intends to appeal, according to a news release issued by Blanchard.

Berrios resisted the initial subpoena, issued in August 2012, saying he was not required to comply as a separately elected countywide official. After months of legal wrangling, in June 2013 Blanchard sued to force Berrios to comply and get a declaration that countywide elected officials are subject to his subpoenas.

Valderrama concluded that Blanchard, whose office was created by the separately elected County Board and president, does have the authority to probe fraud and mismanagement in all of county government. “The IG ordinance requires the assessor, like every other county officer, to cooperate with and comply with the IG,” Valderrama stated in his ruling.

* Perhaps this chart from a couple of years ago could explain it…

* But, heck, even Berrios didn’t know

[Valderrama] suggested that both state and county officials could conduct investigations. Furthermore, he wrote that if lawmakers want to bar Blanchard from investigating officeholders such as Berrios, they need to pass a law specifically limiting his authority.

Reached Monday, Berrios said he was unaware of the court’s ruling. But he expects his attorney — the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office — to file an appeal.

“The state’s attorney is the one doing the case,” Berrios said. “They are the ones pursuing this, and they’re the ones telling me what to do.”

Weird.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


18 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    In all fairness, stories about water-skiing squirrels have gone up significantly during the same time period. And who doesn’t want more of that?


  2. - walker - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    It’s been a long hard slog for Toni P to clean up the multi-layered tar pits of Cook Co. Now her own broom can take a another swipe at Berrios — and not just within the Party organization where she has already had a positive impact.


  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    Under appeal.

    I tend to agree with Berrios. The governor’s IG cannot subpoena the State Treasurer, and I think we all understand why.


  4. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:38 am:

    == The state’s attorney is the one doing the case ==

    Anita Alvarez should simply decline to defend the case any further or appear, just as she did with the marriage cases.

    That anyone could defend Joe Berrios as being above oversight is nauseating, especially after the way he publicly flouted hiring rules. If any office could use some scrutiny, it is his.


  5. - Da Moat - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:41 am:

    YDD is exactly correct. The ASA needs to move to stay the order pending appeal if they did not already do so.


  6. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    @YDD - maybe I misunderstood. Does Berrios’ office have their own, separate IG?

    I thought Blanchard was basically “the guy” for Cook County Commissioners and elected officials.


  7. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    There is a lot of case law on the county offices and Berrios is probably right.


  8. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    The party isn’t over, but it’s nice to occasionally see someone flick the lights a little.


  9. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    It looks like Berrios may be in trouble. The court has already ruled that Blanchard has every right and full authority to investigate Berrios. From the January 16 S-T

    == Judge rules against Berrios, says county watchdog can investigate tax office

    Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios has publicly said the county’s watchdog has no authority to investigate him, but a Wednesday court ruling says the inspector general has every right to scrutinize operations at the tax office. ==


  10. - olddog - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    And how did the Trib get the story? It’s right there in the second graf: “… according to a news release issued by Blanchard.”

    At least they don’t pretend it’s a “scoop.” Your ad revenue chart says it all.


  11. - DuPage - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    After reading about very expensive IG undercover investigations uncovering such scandals as someone having food at his desk, I would agree with Berrios. Creating new IGs and ordering them to go on fishing expeditions against political adversaries should not be allowed.
    I don’t like Berrios, but he is right in this case.


  12. - Lobo Y Olla - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    =The state’s attorney is the one doing the case=

    Anita Alvarez should simply decline to defend the case any further or appear, just as she did with the marriage cases.
    ——————————————–
    Anita Alvarez declined to defend the “marriage case” because her client (David Orr) did not want to pursue the case. If Berrios wanted the State’s Attorney to refrain from filing an appeal, He could ask her to do that.


  13. - Marty Funkhouser - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    It’s shameful. The SJ-R has had no one working the Sangamon County court on a daily basis since roughly 2009. They do court stories, but they’re dependent on tips and news releases. Nobody is going over there and scouring the dockets everyday.


  14. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    === Berrios said he was unaware of the court’s ruling. ===

    Right.


  15. - overcooked - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    This just might hurt his re-election bid, oops, he is running unopposed


  16. - Frank G. - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 12:22 pm:

    Not only is the court “beat” be abandoned by newspapers, so too are village board and school board meetings. Many of the local weeklies have gone out of business or have cut staff to the point where they only run press releases. In the Chicago area, the downtown papers never cover suburban board meetings…so a whole lot of government activity is going on without media scrutiny.


  17. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 1:18 pm:

    Frank G. - =…so a whole lot of government activity is going on without media scrutiny.=

    Perhaps another good reason to reduce the number of units of local government?


  18. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Aug 26, 14 @ 1:49 pm:

    I don’t know anybody but my 73 year old father who actually reads a hard copy of a newspaper anymore. So I’m not sure I’d waste money advertising in those. As far as online ads, I might consider it but I’d take into account whether the site was a paid site or not. I refuse to pay for online news access.


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