Avon Township board members are questioning whether a colleague has a primary residence in Chicago and has been improperly receiving more than one homeowner's exemption for property tax purposes.
Trustee Douglas Raul Williams was the subject of Monday night's special board session. Supervisor Lisa Rusch, who faces Williams in the April 9 election, raised several questions and voiced concerns at the meeting that Williams did not attend because of a prior commitment.
Williams declined to comment. But Williams' attorney, Christopher Kennedy, wrote a letter to Rusch stating his client has been a registered voter in Avon Township since 2003, when he built a home in Hainesville.
Rusch read from Cook County documents that purport Williams has had a primary residence at a property on Kedzie Avenue in Chicago since 2003 for homeowner's exemption purposes. She said Lake County documents show Williams has been receiving a second homestead exemption as co-owner for a primary residence at the Hainesville house.
"But the larger issue for this board is Mr. Williams' residency status," Rusch said. "If, according to public documents, he has continuously, without interruption, claimed Chicago as his primary legal residence, can he serve as an Avon Township trustee?"
Under the law, Illinois residents can claim the exemption only on the property that is their primary residence. The exemption reduces the amount of property taxes owed by lowering a property's assessed value.
Kennedy accused Rusch of using Monday's meeting as an opportunity to gain a political advantage over Williams. He also questioned whether the township provided a legal 48-hour notice of the public meeting.
"Your decision to call a special meeting on short notice to discuss a matter over which the board has no jurisdiction and can take no official action constitutes the intentional use of township resources and property for prohibited political activity to support your campaign, in violation of the law and various ethical rules," Kennedy wrote to Rusch.
Rusch and the three other Avon trustees agreed to address Williams' situation at a future meeting. Rusch is heading the Avon Action slate in the April election while Williams is running for supervisor as an independent.
Williams quit his Round Lake Area Unit District 116 board position in March 2012 when he was appointed to the Avon board. He filled a vacancy created when Chris Ditton was appointed as Avon Township's assessor at a special meeting on Christmas Eve 2011.
Ditton, who is running with Rusch on the Avon Action ticket, gave a presentation regarding Williams' homeowner's exemptions at Monday's session. Ditton said he recently contacted Lake County Assessor Martin Paulson when he became aware Williams may be claiming two exemptions.
Trustee William McNeill, a member of the Avon Strong political team for the April 9 election, cautioned that officials still don't have all of the facts regarding Williams.
"We've got to slow down a little bit," McNeill said. "Was it right or wrong? Who knows? I don't really agree with (two exemptions), either. But as a board here, I don't know what our legality is and where you guys plan on going with this."
Avon Township encompasses all or part of Grayslake, Hainesville, Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Heights, Third Lake and unincorporated Lake County.
Last August, a Daily Herald investigation found Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth improperly claimed two homeowner exemptions at once over a period of several years. After the error was pointed out, Duckworth said she paid $1,928 in taxes she saved because of the extra exemption, plus $612 in penalties.