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Todd Ricketts is in some hot tax water

Tuesday, Jul 9, 2019

* Not notifying the assessor’s office about building a new house might be excused because somebody forgot to file some paperwork or whatever. But filing a property tax appeal on taxes owed for a long-demolished house is another story

For nearly a decade, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts has lived in a 5,000-square-foot North Shore house nestled on a meticulously landscaped lot complete with a Japanese-style garden.

It’s a showcase Wilmette home a short walk from Lake Michigan. But it’s not the home that Ricketts, who also is finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, has been paying taxes on.

Instead, records show, Ricketts pays property taxes based on the value of the much older and smaller house that he tore down to make way for the new one, providing him with a huge discount likely totaling tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

State law required Ricketts to notify the assessor that he had built a new home in 2010, but a spokesman for the assessor’s office said there’s no record that Ricketts ever did.

In 2013, Ricketts’ attorney had a chance to tell Cook County tax officials about the new home during a property tax appeal but instead sought a reduction based on the age and size of the old house, according to documents the Tribune obtained through an open-records request. The paperwork included a photo of the century-old home that had been demolished.

An investigation has been launched. Go read the whole thing. It’s pretty hilarious. Ricketts’ spouse wrote a letter to Wilmette school board officials complaining about high property taxes, even though the taxes they were paying were on a house they’d demolished years before.

Go Sox.

* Meanwhile, Madigan & Getzendanner is everywhere

The City of Sandwich and Sandwich School District #430 stand to lose thousands of dollars of tax money if a property tax appeal by Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan’s law firm is successful.

Madigan’s Chicago law firm represents Hall St. Lofts, LP, and the appeal was discussed at Monday’s regular meeting of the Sandwich City Council.

Madigan’s firm wants the DeKalb Co. Bd. of Review’s assessment reduced $294,788, from $581,425 to $296,637, which would reduce the Hall St. Lofts’ property tax bill by approximately $28,000.

Sandwich is in DeKalb, Kendall, and LaSalle counties.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

70 Comments
  1. - Jocko - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    One of the emailed questions to James FortCamp should have read “What does the underside of a bus looks like?”

    Along those line, let me be the first to nominate Sylvie Légère for the chutzpah award.


  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    The irony of asking for tax subsidies for your baseball team whilst your partner complains about the effective use of tax dollars is some quality stuff.

    Also I never thought i would end up wishing I had the tax rate of Willmette


  3. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    Dear extremely rich folks: Property taxes on your homes aren’t going to put you in the poor house. Just pay them by the book.


  4. - TheInvisibleMan - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    I’m sure all the people who were parroting the Pritker toilet nonsense, will apply the same outrage to what Rickets has done.

    Especially because there is an actual investigation happening with this event.


  5. - Honeybear - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    Oh this is so delicious.
    Perfidy doesn’t pay


  6. - Bruce( no not him) - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    Baseball teams are expensive. Gotta cut costs where you can.


  7. - Someone you should know - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    I can cut the Schadenfreude with a knife on this one :)


  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    At least the Ricketts aren’t also clouting a denied child into Payton Prep…

    At least the Ricketts are misleading on a whole building, not just toilets…


  9. - SSL - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    Mr. Invisible, I was one of those giving Pritzker grief over his property tax scam, and Ricketts is definitely cut from the same cloth and deserves the same grief.

    Regardless of what side of the aisle you are on, elitism looks good on no one. The people who think the rules don’t apply to them are everywhere, and it is awful.


  10. - Say It Ain't So - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    No! Not the most promising (aside from Tom, Pete, and Laura) of the Ricketts children! Fake news!


  11. - Responsa - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    Hey haters, Ricketts just trying to save up some money for some decent pitching on the north side.


  12. - Practical Politics - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    Different strokes for different folks.

    Luis Guitierrez owned a vacant Chicago lot and built a multi-unit residence on it, but continued to pay lower taxes for years based upon an assessment which continued to list the property as an empty lot. When a controversy erupted about the property tax bill, the assessor’s office gave Luis a complete pass and said that the office was to blame for failing to inspect the property and reassess it correctly.

    The assessor employs people to go out and make inspections and check on building permits and the like. So who was asleep when Ricketts applied for a demolition permit and building permits?


  13. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    Wasn’t there a building permit for the new home? It seems like the assessor should be able to look at the building permits issued and not have to rely on the “kindness of strangers”, or in this case, the veracity of the Ricketts.


  14. - Illinois Resident - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    Just another example of more socialism for the rich. The rich love socialism.


  15. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    According to the story …

    Ricketts did take out a building permit.

    The permit office said they notified the assessor.

    The assessor’s office said they never received notification.

    Someone is playing CYA.

    Ricketts is apparently guilty of not correcting things when he filed a property tax appeal. But even that may be subjective, depending on the state of the house(s) / property at the time.

    Regardless of how the law reads, it is the job of the county assessor, not the property owner, to get it right.

    Rickett can plausibly argue he notified by taking out the building permit. I will guess he may have to pay some back property taxes and no fines, but even collecting the extra property taxes after the fact may be a bit questionable.

    My take? As far as Ricketts goes, much ado about nothing much. As far as the county assessor’s office, time to overhaul it.


  16. - Illinois Resident - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    RNUG - He pays the bill annually correct? If you get something for free, do you just let it go?


  17. - Former Downstater - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    RNUG- “As far as Ricketts goes, much ado about nothing much. ”

    I believe Ricketts as owner of the property signed the appeal form, which included the erroneous picture. That would appear to be a bigger ado.


  18. - The Goat - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    RNUG, I could go along with that if it weren’t for the fact that he filed a property tax appeal in 2013 using specs from the house that had already been demolished before 2010.

    I agree the assessor’s office should have caught it based on the building permit but Ricketts was trying to work the system based on lies.


  19. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    “By not paying his fair share, Mr. Ricketts shifted his property taxes to other homeowners”

    Leecher bum.

    – MrJM


  20. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    == If you get something for free, do you just let it go? ==

    Well … for a number of years, I was getting a Homestead Exemption on 2 houses. The county was notified when we changed our voter registration. I didn’t rush down to correct their mistake. But I also don’t play the games some people do, with one house in the husband’s name and another house in the wife’s name so you can claim maximum exemptions.


  21. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:11 am:

    == which included the erroneous picture ==

    I read the story several times trying to get the timeline straight. It wasn’t clear to me if the new home was partially built or completed at that time.


  22. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:12 am:

    — Especially because there is an actual investigation happening with this event. —

    There is with the Pritzker situation as well, albeit at a different level of government.


  23. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    == It wasn’t clear to me if the new home was partially built or completed at that time. ==

    Adding … going by local practice, 5 years after the building permit was issued, the assessors office should have done an inspection.


  24. - lakeside - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    ==Dear extremely rich folks:==

    All this work to save 10k when you’ve got billions. Clip some coupons, man.


  25. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    == All this work to save 10k … ==

    Rich people get rich by watching the pennies …


  26. - Former Downstater - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    ==Adding … going by local practice, 5 years after the building permit was issued, the assessors office should have done an inspection.==

    True. The owner also shouldn’t have signed an appeal with obviously false information. This goes both ways.


  27. - Simple Simon - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:27 am:

    As per News Gazette, Madigan’s firm is also appealing the value of a large student apartment complex in Champaign, ostensibly lower in value because of lower than expected occupancy rates. But the listing price of the building undoubtedly would not decline if they decided to sell it, I’m sure.


  28. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:28 am:

    All of this info can be found online publically on the Cook County GIS map. It just took some detective work to figure out (from the various news reports of Todd and Tom over the years) that the property was somewhere on Laurel Ave. in Wilmette. Then I just used the aerial view to try and find a house along Laurel that matched the new home Todd had built. All done in a few minutes time.

    Here’s the PIN number- 05-34-222-013-0000. When you plug that in and find the home, the picture that shows up on the Cook Count GIS map site is still the old house-

    https://maps.cookcountyil.gov/cookviewer/mapViewer.html#

    On the Property Tax Portal, there is no image available-

    http://www.cookcountypropertyinfo.com/default.aspx

    You’ll have to plug the PIN into each site to get to the info, and may have to click on Parcel Numbers in the GIS site. But, it’s there, and not totally up to date.


  29. - Natty_B - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    == Rich people get rich by watching the pennies ==

    Todd got rich the old fashioned way - inheriting it from his old man.


  30. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    More money, more problems. Those were good days when people like Bill Veeck could own a major league team.


  31. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:34 am:

    If you want to do a deeds search, go here and enter the PIN-

    https://cookrecorder.com/search-our-records/


  32. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    Anon221 those pictures on the website linger a while. When I see some new construction and I wonder what was there before, the assessor’s website is a good place to look.


  33. - DIstant watcher - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    If the City of Sandwich and the Sandwich schools lose a bunch of money, it won’t be because of the claim filed on behalf of the property owners so much as it’ll be because the assessor messed up the initial assessment. Better assessments mean more accurate tax levies and fewer losses to local governments.


  34. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:37 am:

    Seems like a lot of folks with some answerin’ to do as GovJunk might say. that veteran lawyer might be asked about his work. Wonderin’ if the New Tier assessor noticed over the course of a decade that no one if downtown took notice of the building permit? Wonderin’ how many building permit notices from the country towns were ignored? That could be a fun FOI


  35. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    BTW, the Cook County Assessor’s Office needs to do some updating, too. Plug and Play the PIN to see the 2019 info… sigh.

    http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/Search/Property-Search.aspx


  36. - Humboldt - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    RNUG - your calls to overhaul the assessor’s office was heeded by the voters last November. I’d expect we hear many more stories like this of things the “connected” have gotten away with under the Berrios (…or Houlihan) administration as rocks are overturned going forward.


  37. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:40 am:

    “All this work to save 10k when you’ve got billions. Clip some coupons, man.”

    Rich people, man…


  38. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    == the picture that shows up on the Cook Count GIS map site is still the old house ==

    I don’t know but apparently Cook uses pictures submitted by the owners. Locally, the pictures in the online information were taken by the assessors office.

    Sounds like Cook saved a nickel just to let thousands get missed. we


  39. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    Per WDPY News==The City of Sandwich and Sandwich School District #430 stand to lose thousands of dollars of tax money if a property tax appeal by Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan’s law firm is successful.==

    Doesn’t the the property tax break divert the taxes to the other property owners? How does district #430 loose the money? No other properties in the district?


  40. - Chris Widger - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    ==At least the Ricketts aren’t also clouting a denied child into Payton Prep…==

    You cannot clout anyone into anywhere. Only school administrators who decide which students make up the class can accept clout. CPS failed.


  41. - Paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    Thanks Ducky for mentioning the great Bill Veeck. What a great American.

    While a co-owner of the Brewers, Veeck served for nearly three years in the United States Marine Corps during World War II in an artillery unit. During this time a recoiling artillery piece crushed his right leg, requiring amputation first of the foot, and shortly after of the leg above the knee. Over the course of his life he had 36 operations on the leg.He had a series of wooden legs and, as an inveterate smoker, cut holes in them to use as an ashtray.


  42. - Simple Simon - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    If the correct address is given by that tax number, Google Earth shows the original house still standing in 2008, but completely replaced and fully landscaped by June of 2010. No obvious changes since then. I don’t put this on the assessor if he submitted photos of the old house after June of 2010.


  43. - DIstant watcher - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:56 am:

    @Big Bad: If the change in assessment is completed before the rates are set, then the taxes are, as you described, diverted to other property owners. If the change in assessment is completed after rates are set, then the refund comes out of the taxes generated and the governmental body loses out.


  44. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:01 am:

    ==You cannot clout anyone into anywhere. Only school administrators who decide which students make up the class can accept clout.==

    This seems a pedantic way to defend Rauner’s actions. Can an individual who uses their personal relationship/financial donations/political power with said school administrator to ensure that their child is one of these selected students not be said to be doing the “clouting”?


  45. - Cook County Commoner - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:02 am:

    First, the Porcelain Prince. Now the Duke of Demolition.


  46. - Simple Simon - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:02 am:

    Distant Watcher…if you are unaware of the shenanigans that occur in appraisals and the tax appeal process, you need to get informed. Assessments need to be based on recent arms-length sales prices/comparables, not returns on investment and other easily manipulated methods.


  47. - Bigtwich - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    The Rickerts property was listed in the Cook County Annual Tax Sale Notice in 2010.

    http://www.publicnoticeads.com/notices/IL/2965/1122011_15430005.htm


  48. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:07 am:

    Simple Simon- Not putting it all on the assessor, but surely since even 2010 someone would have done at least a drive-by to see if any changes had happened to properties on that street. Heck, hire some interns to go through Google Earth timelines and compare them to a certain percentage of properties each year. If discrepancies are found by the interns, then let the professionals in that office take over and start investigating.


  49. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    This story doesn’t begin to cover the hypocrisy. Ricketts wife, Sylvie Legere, has been an extremely aggressive conservative, anti-tax political advocate in Wilmette for many years. She and her organization fight every tax increase no matter how small and no matter the purpose, recruit candidates and launch front groups that partner with the IPI/Americans For Prosperity crowd in their (usually unsuccessful) efforts to win local elections. They are outspoken on property tax issues so much that there is literally zero chance she and her husband were unaware of the sweetheart deal they’ve been receiving all these years. As a homeowner, I’m on the assessors website at least once or twice a year. Zero chance they just ignored it given their outrage over paying taxes. Sorry RNUG, normally I agree with you, but on this one I think you’re wrong about their culpability.


  50. - SSL - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    Oh c’mon, Ricketts knew exactly what he was doing. This was an effort to avoid, if not evade, taxes.

    Same as JB.

    We’ll see if the authorities think it was evasion and not avoidance.


  51. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    ==If the change in assessment is completed after rates are set, then the refund comes out of the taxes generated and the governmental body loses out.==

    Wow. Sandwich must do things differently. With my property taxes there is only a short window of time to appeal. You can’t just do it whenever you feel like it.


  52. - Roman - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    It seems the origin of the photo of the old house is the key to whether or not there’s some serious legal jeopardy here. Was that photo submitted by someone who knew it was outdated? And who provided the law firm that pic? Did they just print it off an outdated county website or was it given to them by someone?


  53. - Former Downstater - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    ==I’d expect we hear many more stories like this of things the “connected” have gotten away with under the Berrios (…or Houlihan) administration as rocks are overturned going forward.==

    Except that New Trier Township was reassessed this year by, wait for it, Fritz Kaegi. From the article- “The same was true during this year’s reassessment under Kaegi.”


  54. - RNUG - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    == Sorry RNUG, normally I agree with you, but on this one I think you’re wrong about their culpability. ==

    Could be … I’m just going by the facts as reported in the story.


  55. - Humboldt - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    Former Downstater - that’s also addressed in the article. Staying on top of building changes with field inspections is a long uphill battle. The office isn’t staffed to personally view every property before sending out each assessment so misclassifications (or fraud) like this can unfortunately stay on the books for years until they’re uncovered.


  56. - wonkavist - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    1. The assessor’s office is understaffed; even if they improve use of technology they do not have enough people. They definitely cannot do all of the inspections they should. Other jurisdictions with similar numbers of properties and complexity of property mix have 3 times the number of staff.

    2.Permits are transferred electronically; sometimes things are missing…not sure why.

    3. Fraudulent appeals are a whole different matter…


  57. - Simple Simon - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 11:52 am:

    BTW, the assessment history shows an appeal every year since 2013.


  58. - Rutro - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 12:25 pm:

    This and the Pritzker thing are both pathetic borderline criminal.
    The only joy I get is imagining they all feel some shame.
    Inherited wealth,…..and you’re different from Trump how?


  59. - West Sider - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    Rich, this is precisely why my fellow Oak Parker F. Kaegi wants SB 1379 passed. It has 40 co-sponsors in the House. But it just can’t seem to get a vote? Why could that be? We rail–rightly so–at the abject cronyism and corruption in Trumpland, but those same voices go silent on what’s happening in our own backyard. Unreal.


  60. - qualified someone nobody sent - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 1:09 pm:

    New Trier Township was without a Township Assessor for an inordinate amount of time. Perhaps the local assessor’s office dropped the ball when fulfilling its required duty to report ALL Township permit action to the County Assessor for valuation? Village of Wilmette is supposed to forward its permit applications to the Township Assessor who has the direct computer program (AIM) to send the permit information to the County Assessor. Don’t jump to conclusions the County dropped the ball. Tax attorneys/reps use the County Assessors public records (as does Zillow, etc.) to file tax appeals. They should do more research for what they get paid for, but, that’s another story.


  61. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 1:21 pm:

    had a neighbor whose house was taxed on the basis of the home that was there before the scrape down. the taxes were not changed even after I did an appeal pointing this out to the Assessor, and showing that my taxes were almost as high as the mcmansion now near us. the next occupants got the big increase. somewhere is a couple that would owe the County in the same way the Ricketts family does. I’m certain these are not the only cases. Berrios was the worst.


  62. - anon2 - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 3:54 pm:

    Lapses by the Assessor’s office may explain how Ricketts could get away with it, but they don’t excuse tax evasion based upon what appears to be deliberate fraud.


  63. - 37B - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 4:58 pm:

    My experience, Part 1.

    Bought a lot 20 years ago in near west suburb. Lot had previously had uninhabitable house on it which was torn down in order to market it. At closing the seller wanted to account for the fact that the property would be reappraised and taxes applied on a pro-rated basis once the new tax bill came out reflecting the unimproved lot. Surprise: New bill was higher than the old one. Called the county assessor. Was advised that the parcel was worth more after the falling down house had been torn down and removed. When I pressed the issue I was pointedly asked if I paid more for the lot than the new valuation and whether I would rather pay the new higher amount. “No sir, and have a nice day.”
    The point was that the lot was revalued by the assessor very close in time to the tear down of the other structure. Probably because the old owners wanted to reflect a lower value for tax purposes.


  64. - 37B - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 5:10 pm:

    Part 2
    After we built our home our very next tax bill reflected the new improvements on a prorated basis. We had filled out a building permit that reflected the estimated cost of new improvements. Would not have been hard at all to update the old valuation based on the new improvements. The assessor lived in town and knew of our construction. He was a straight shooter, as far as I know,and probably made sure the new assessment reflected the new construction. In other words, I didn’t catch a break. Taxes went from $2,200 (lot with former home)to $2,400 (empty lot) to $5,400 pro-rated new construction) to $7,200 (full year). Now around $16,000. The price of good schools.
    A neighbor who substantially rehabbed his house still has tax bill reflecting the old home many years later. I’m not going to turn him in.
    If people are doing their jobs the assessor should be able to raise assessments on improvements on an efficient, timely basis.


  65. - ICU - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 6:47 pm:

    Great overall story. Interesting to hear from former Cook County Assessor candidate, Andrea Raila. She campaigned on an overhaul of the assessor’s office, and to her credit, continues to be consistent in her call for more staff and greater resources to get the job done the first time.


  66. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 9:37 pm:

    ===Only school administrators who decide which students make up the class can accept clout. CPS failed.===

    (Sigh)

    Lemme guess, CPS officials randomly call folks, “can I clout your suburban kid we denied”… unsolicited?

    LOL


  67. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 10:23 pm:

    But the really important question is whether or not there were functioning toilets in the new home.


  68. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Jul 10, 19 @ 9:19 am:

    ==But the really important question is whether or not there were functioning toilets in the new home.==

    You are thinking of the Vacancy Relief Provision which is a property tax deduction for every property owner who rehabs a home. This home wasn’t rehabbed. It was torn down.


  69. - Lynn S. - Thursday, Jul 11, 19 @ 1:32 am:

    @ Simple Simon (Tuesday 10:27)

    That apartment complex you’re referring to?

    If the owners ever decide to sell, the potential new owners will be asking for 2 years of profit and loss (p & l) statements, plus probably at least a year of cash flow statements.

    My suspicion is that when they find out that one in six of the apartments in that complex are vacant, the prospective new owners are going to want to pay less (possibly much, much less) than owner wants to sell for.

    What I would give to be a fly on the wall when all that paperwork is being examined…


  70. - ACDA16 - Thursday, Jul 18, 19 @ 3:20 pm:

    Just another example of Cook counties complete lack of proper assessments. A countywide rather than township assessment system is fools gold for all involved. As a 30 year appraiser in the private sector throughout Cook and all collar counties, Cook without question has more errors per capita in valuation and characteristics than any county. This equates to other taxpayers paying a larger share of the tax portion levies - Period.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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