Assessors sue Lake County over property-value feud
A feud between Lake County officials and some township assessors over the property-value process has led to a civil-rights lawsuit.
The assessors in Grant, Cuba, Libertyville, Ela and Vernon townships have sued Lake County Chief Assessment Officer Marty Paulson, Lake County Treasurer David Stolman, the county and the county's board of review in federal court in Chicago. Seven Lake County property owners also are plaintiffs in the case.
In a news release, the assessors claimed Paulson is blocking the township assessors from properly valuing land, and that Paulson reversed thousands of property value changes they made.
Asked to respond, Lake County Administrator Barry Burton said Paulson reversed those value changes because they had been made illegally by the assessors.
The five assessors who brought the suit have been improperly trying to make changes to property values annually rather than every four years as required by state law, Burton said. Additionally, the assessors have been trying to change property values by neighborhood, even though state law doesn't allow that, he said.
The assessors and county officials have discussed the conflict publicly and privately but reached no agreement.
"We have a fundamental disagreement between a couple of the assessors and the chief assessor's office," Burton said.
The assessors also claimed Paulson is trying to abolish and overtake their offices.
Burton described that allegation as "an outlandish comment made by people who have a hard time working with others."
In August, Cuba Township Assessor Rebecca Tonigan said Paulson was undermining her work to fairly set property values. She and other assessors questioned why Paulson's office kept them out of the most recent property valuation process.
Responding at the time, Paulson said he wanted consistency in the valuation process and therefore used data from the Illinois Department of Revenue and other sources rather than information provided by the township assessors.
On Friday, Tonigan said she is trying to protect Ela Township taxpayers. Paulson's actions "really impeded our ability to do our jobs," she said.