Cook County Board of Review candidates debate qualifications, pandemic response
Qualifications and COVID-19 dominate the debate between Cook County Board of Review candidates Republican Dan Patlak and Democrat Tammy Wendt.
Wendt, a Palos Heights attorney and licensed real estate broker, is running to unseat Wheeling resident and incumbent Patlak, who seeks a fourth term representing the review board's 1st District, which stretches from the northwest corner of Cook County to the southwest suburbs.
The board of review evaluates appeals from homeowners and business owners who believe their assessments are too high.
During a Daily Herald editorial board interview, Wendt argued that as a quasi-judicial office, the position should be helmed by an attorney. Because commissioners are asked to rule on legal issues including uniformity in taxation and exemptions among others, she said "it only makes sense that the commissioners have the appropriate legal background."
Patlak, who is not an attorney, says it is not a requirement.
"99% of what the board of review does is financial analysis, it's not the interpretation of law," said the former Wheeling Township assessor. "I'm just as capable of reading a state statute, or reading a decision by a judge that interprets that state statute, as any attorney."
When legal issues arise, the board can draw upon the two other commissioners who are attorneys, or on the attorneys employed as board analysts, Patlak said.
Wendt disagreed. "You can't call yourself an expert in the law just because you think you can understand the statute. There's a reason people go to law school ... I went to law school to learn to interpret case law."
Wendt also criticized what she described as Patlak's failure to respond to the financial strain homeowners and business owners have experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in decreased property values for some.
The board "is not helping taxpayers especially in this time of crisis," she said. "Dan Patlak ... hasn't communicated anything about COVID-19 relief."
"The governor declared a state of disaster in March," Wendt said. "The law states properties can be reassessed as of the date of the disaster. No one's talking about it. Why not?"
She questioned why Patlak hasn't issued a statement to property owners about coronavirus relief.
Commissioners are charged with adjudicating all appeals and responding fairly and will do so once owners present their appeals, Patlak responded. If the evidence shows the coronavirus has affected property value, "we will do the appropriate thing," he said.
"As soon as that evidence is presented to us by the property owners we will consider it. If it is compelling, we will grant reductions based on that evidence. Until then there is no need for me to issue a news release announcing ahead of time some sort of blanket reduction," he said. "We're going to look at the cases as we always do, on a case-by-case basis."