Three members of Congress endorsed Fritz Kaegi for Cook County Assessor Sunday, as incumbent Joe Berrios continues to face the fallout of a report alleging that his office has failed to assess thousands of properties.
Reps. Danny K. Davis (7th), Bill Foster (11th) and Robin Kelly (2nd), all Democrats, threw their support behind Kaegi, saying he would “bring professionalism and accountability, and restore confidence in the office.”
Their endorsement came days after a Chicago Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation revealed that Berrios did not estimate the value of thousands of properties, sometimes simply carrying over one number from one year to the next.
The analysis, published Thursday, also alleged that errors in Berrios’ system created “deep inequities” that punished small businesses while “cutting a break” to owners of high-value properties – ultimately forcing homeowners to pay more in property taxes.
That report is the publication’s second on Berrios’ practices, after a June investigation brought to light widespread inequities in the county's residential property tax system.
Those investigations have brought the political ties of Berrios – who also serves as the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party – into the spotlight.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners questioned him in July, asking why tax attorneys are allowed to contribute to his campaign fund – an area in which Berrios said he was open to discussing changes.
Kaegi has said he believes taking contributions from the lawyers who appeal taxes is corrupt, vowing not do so in his campaign - a stance that Davis, Foster and Kelly praised as a promise “to take politics out” of the assessor’s office.
Democratic candidate for Illinois governor Chris Kennedy called on Berrios to step down Thursday in the wake of the Tribune/ProPublica investigation, saying the “property tax racket run by Joe Berrios and political insiders needs to end and it needs to end today.”
Berrios’ office fired back, urging Kennedy to “return to taxpayers the millions of dollars in tax savings resulting from those reductions” in a statement.
On the topic of Kaegi’s endorsements, a spokeswoman for Berrios declined to comment Sunday.