Why a group of Wheeling residents wants to remove village president

A group of Wheeling residents wants to remove Village President Pat Horcher from office less than halfway through his first term.

The group circulating petitions, which could force a recall election to end Horcher's term early, accuses him of being incompetent and claims he and his family are not paying their fair share of property taxes on their sprawling farm property, which Horcher denies.

Horcher called the recall effort and allegations a "circus."

"Is it a positive for democracy?" Horcher said. "No, I would say that this is going to turn into the worst that democracy has to offer, but it is democracy."

David Kolssak, a longtime Wheeling business owner and former candidate for village president, submitted documents to the Wheeling village clerk's office Thursday to begin the recall process.

For the question to appear on the ballot, residents must submit the signatures of registered voters equal to at least 33 percent of the people who cast ballots in the most recent election for village president, or about 744 signatures. A majority of voters in a recall election must vote in favor to remove the elected official.

"This has to stop. There can't be two sets of rules," Kolssak said, referring to the amount of property taxes paid on the Horcher family's land.

Kolssak backed former Village President Dean Argiris, who lost a re-election bid in 2017 to Horcher amid accusations that he used a village credit card for personal expenses, paid water bills months late and drove a city SUV without restriction. Argiris is employed at Kolssak Funeral Home, David Kolssak's family business.

Kolssak said the recall effort is not connected to his relationship with Horcher's former political opponent.

"I don't look at it that one thing has to do with the other," Kolssak said.

He said the recall effort also is not related to Horcher asking him to resign this month from the board of directors at the Chicago Executive Airport, whose members are appointed by elected officials in Wheeling and Prospect Heights.

Kolssak said the recall effort largely stems from allegations by resident Deborah Wilson that Horcher and his family have received tax breaks on their farm south of McHenry and Wieland roads by submitting incorrect farmland affidavits to the Cook County assessor's office. Submitting those forms every year allows acreage used for farming to be assessed at lower levels than other commercial properties.

Horcher, his brothers and their father operate several businesses on the property, including a farm and vegetable stand, greenhouse and flower shop, truck parking and towing, and landscaping services. Wilson has suggested the uses not related to farming - the trucking business in particular - are taking up more acreage than is being reported to the assessor's office.

Wilson has repeated her allegations during public comment at village board meetings since August and called on Horcher to resign.

But Horcher denies any improprieties in his family's property taxes. In fact, he says his family might have paid more in taxes than necessary by declaring more acreage than allowed as non-farmland, citing an opinion by an employee in the assessor's office.

A spokesman for the assessor's office hasn't confirmed that information.

"The Cook County Assessor's Office thoroughly reviewed this original questionnaire and affidavit," spokesman Tom Shaer wrote in an email Tuesday, adding that the office expects to have further information Wednesday.

Horcher added that he also hired a surveyor and reviewed an Illinois Department of Revenue legal publication on how to define agricultural properties, after Wilson leveled the accusations.

"I don't know that everything is absolutely perfect, but I haven't found anything that's wrong," Horcher said.

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