* From a Crain’s Chicago Business editorial, which is partially about Ald. Ed Burke and his property tax appeals business…
This is why outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner, for all his faults, wasn’t wrong to advocate for term limits and to suggest that House Speaker Michael Madigan’s day job, like Burke’s, presents such a clear conflict of interest to his role as a public servant that it defies logic. In fact, it is well past time for it to be illegal to do what Burke and Madigan have done for decades—handling property tax appeals for businesses standing to benefit from or be harmed by government actions.
If the city or state were on autopilot, with finances in good shape, it might not matter so much. But with job one for both the newly elected governor and soon-to-be-elected mayor being to fix the city and state’s fiscal house—which likely involves overhauling state and city tax frameworks—they first ought to tackle the ethics issues and conflicts of interest highlighted in the Burke case once and for all.
If our elected leaders are going to go for the type of grand bargain that seems required—more taxes, fewer services—they should offer taxpayers something in return, like good government, or at least better government.
Incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker would earn goodwill from both parties if he targeted what has now been shown in the starkest manner possible to be indefensible: the ability to represent businesses on their property tax appeals and hold immensely powerful political offices. Start there. It’s a no-brainer.
Regardless of the merits, I’m kinda thinking that if Pritzker wants to get big things done, trying to put Madigan & Getzendanner out of business right out of the gate probably wouldn’t be his most prudent move. But, hey, that’s just me.
* Illinois News Network…
[Gov. Bruce Rauner] said there should be controls on property tax appeal lawyers holding elected office. Rauner tried to use an executive order in January 2018 to prohibit state lawmakers from representing clients before the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board.
“I did an executive order so we could at least stop it at the state level … and oh goodness, some legislators on [the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules] said ‘oh no, you can’t do that with an executive order,’ ” Rauner said. “I’m shocked.”
State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, who’s also a property tax appeals lawyer, said blocking an entire profession from holding elected office because of one bad actor is wrong.
“One has nothing to do with the other,” Martwick said. “Illinois has a long and storied history of people committing corruption and abusing their public trust and not all of them have been tax lawyers. You can have good lawyers and bad lawyers. You can have good doctors and bad doctors. You can have good journalists and bad journalists.”
Every profession “has a conflict of interest in the state of Illinois. That is what a citizen government does,” Martwick said. “To pick out one and rule [them] out because one person has been overtly corrupt is really the wrong thing to do.”
Martwick said raising the issue is only meant as a political attack against House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who also is a property tax appeals lawyer.
Rauner has criticized Madigan for having a property tax appeals business while holding the most powerful office in the Illinois House.
Madigan hasn’t commented on Burke’s situation, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.
As to Madigan’s perceived conflict of interest being in control of legislation dealing with local property taxes while having a property tax appeals business in Chicago, Brown said “during his career in public service [Madigan] has used a personal code of conduct that prevents any possibility that his public office is used to benefit himself, the law firm or clients of the law firm.”