Dan Patlak and Sean Morrison agree on one thing -- that it's vital a Republican retain the District 1 seat on the Cook County Board of Review.
They differ, however, on who that Republican should be.
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Patlak and Morrison will square off in the March 20 Republican primary for the District 1 seat. It will be a rematch of the February 2010 primary, which Patlak won with 53 percent of the vote. The three-member Board of Review is the agency that reviews complaints about property tax assessments.
Both candidates recently met with the Daily Herald to discuss their qualifications and experience.
Now the incumbent District 1 commissioner, Patlak said he's running for re-election so that he can build on initiatives he helped bring about during his first years on the board -- the introduction of online appeals and the publication of the board's first-ever annual report among them. He also wants to act as a "check-and-balance" figure in a county dominated by Democrats.
"It's not healthy that nearly every office in Cook County is filled by Democrats," Patlak said. "Complete control by one party is an invitation to corruption."
Morrison agrees that a Republican needs to hold the seat, but he said he believes Patlak has failed to stop corruption from creeping into board business, a charge Patlak emphatically denied, saying "there's is no corruption at the Board of Review."
Morrison also criticized Patlak for taking campaign contributions from tax attorneys who regularly do business with the Board of Review.
"I would say those contributions should be limited to $250," Morrison said, adding that he's funding his campaign himself. "Anything beyond that, the attorneys are just trying to buy political influence."
Patlak said that while it's true that attorneys have contributed to his campaign, those contributions haven't resulted in any pressure to vote one way or another. And he pointed out that every contribution must be reported.
"All my contributions are completely transparent -- you can see exactly who's giving and how much," he said. "I don't think you should have to be rich to run for office."
Experience & record
Patlak, a Wheeling resident, said his experience makes him a clear choice in the upcoming primary. Before being elected to the Board of Review, Patlak served as the Wheeling Township assessor and, before that, he worked as an analyst for former District 1 Commissioner Maureen Murphy. He is a certified Illinois assessing officer.
Patlak also touted his record, including working to get a Freedom of Information Act page on the board's website. "I've worked hard to make the board work more efficiently and transparently," he said.
Morrison, a Palos Park resident, is owner and CEO of Morrison Security, a business based in Alsip. He said he has the business skills necessary to be commissioner, a job that he says is more about executive oversight than micromanagement.
"The commissioners should be the executives in charge," he said. "I can do that, without all the baggage of being a bureaucrat."
Patlak questioned whether a business owner like Morrison would be able to devote the necessary time to the commissioner's job.
"I don't have another job; this is what I do," Patlak said. "I think I owe it to the taxpayers to be there full-time."
Morrison said that if elected, he would step aside as CEO of his company, though he would still monitor it as owner.
"I would devote no less than 40 hours a week (to the Board of Review)," he said.
One of Patlak's key goals for the future is to build on the technological changes he helped introduce during his first term on the board.
"I think we need to do more with digitalizing our system," he said. "I'd like to get it to where residential appellants can actually submit evidence through their computers. And I think we have to work toward digitalizing all our records. It makes things easier for taxpayers, and it saves the county money."
Morrison said the board is behind the curve in moving to digitalization and said that his business background would be an advantage in speeding the conversion. He said he'd also push to have all employees go through ethical training to provide another barrier to corruption.