On the surface, it might seem that a race for a seat on the Cook County Board of Review would be one of the quieter ones on the ballot. But the Republican primary contest for the board's District 1 seat has already generated some noise.
The challenger in that race, Palos Park business owner Sean Morrison, has accused incumbent Dan Patlak of electioneering -- soliciting support for his re-election during a taxpayer-funded event.
Patlak, a Wheeling resident and the former Wheeling Township assessor, says that the meeting in question was a suburban political event, not an official county meeting, so he was entitled to seek support for his campaign.
He acknowledges, though, that the meeting was advertised as an official Board of Review outreach meeting on the agency's website.
"That was a mistake, and it's one I take responsibility for," Patlak said Wednesday. "It won't happen again."
The three-member Board of Review is the agency that reviews complaints about property tax assessments. Each commissioner on the board represents one of three districts. District 1 is the largest geographically, covering an area that stretches from the far northwest corner of the county to the southwest suburbs.
Morrison, said he started hearing complaints about possible electioneering at Board of Review outreach meetings in November of last year. The board's outreach meetings are designed to educate taxpayers about the appeals process and encourage them to participate.
On Nov. 30, one of Morrison's aides recorded Patlak promoting his campaign and seeking support during one such meeting, Morrison said Wednesday.
"He was basically caught red-handed," he said.
Morrison said he submitted the video recording and an official complaint to the Cook County state's attorney's office.
Patlak said that the Nov. 30 meeting was actually a gathering of South suburban Tea Party members, not a Board of Review outreach meeting. He said some Board of Review employees attended, but on their own time as volunteers.
"It was not an official county meeting," he said. "So I was able to talk about my election campaign."
Patlak added that the meeting took place roughly two weeks after that South suburban township was "closed" for the year, meaning taxpayers could no longer file assessment complaints.
"It wouldn't make sense to hold an outreach meeting when the local taxpayers couldn't file," he said.
This year's primary, which will be held March 20, is a rematch of the primary held in February of 2010. Patlak defeated Morrison in that election, garnering 53 percent of the vote.
Morrison, a Chicago native, is the founder and CEO of a security-services company based in Alsip. He lives in Palos Park with his wife and two children. Patlak. a Skokie native, is a real estate broker who spent eight years working as a Board of Review analyst. He lives in Wheeling with his wife and son.