Blogs from July, 2012

(July 24, 2011 – Chicago) Two employees, both analysts at the Cook County's tax appeal board, the Cook County Board of Review, were arrested and charged by Federal prosecutors on July 18, 2012 for bribery. Both men were on the staff of Cook County Commissioner Larry Rogers, Jr. The Chicago Sun Times reported that according to federal prosecutors the two employees "discussed scheming with others to make property tax reductions in exchange for bribes." Oral arguments will be held (case#10 cv 6682) at 3:30 pm on July 24, 2012 in the United States District Court's Ceremonial Courtroom in a Federal lawsuit that alleges the exact same thing--that pay for play and bribery are the mandatory means for the adjudication of property tax appeals in Cook County. The civil case is of consequence to every property owner in Cook County and Chicago. Business owners, Sharad Dani and Harish Dani along with Satkar Corporation filed a Federal lawsuit against the Cook County Board of Review and its three Commissioners and staff including Larry R. Rogers, Jr. and current Assessor Joseph Berrios for arbitrarily singling them out for tax increases. The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants, (Board of Review Commissioners and staff) use the tax appeal body for "unabashed self-dealing, capriciousness and corruption," as opposed to utilizing a set method "for the adjudication of tax appeal claims."

The lawsuit also named a local Fox News affiliate and its reporter Dane Placko, for engaging in unscrupulous, and immoral tabloid journalism. It states that the local Fox News and Dane Placko, in exchange for access, were used by the Commissioners and Board of Review employees to insinuate wrongdoing on the part of the Plaintiffs and former Illinois State Representative Paul Froehlich-all in a successful effort to deflect attention from the investigation of wrongdoing of the Board of Review.

After Federal investigators arrested the two Board of Review employees for bribery, lead attorney R. Tamara de Silva received an email from Former State Representative Paul Froehlich, directed to Fox's Dane Placko, questioning whether Placko will return an Emmy that he received for the false story. The letter states,

"Suppose some reporter had repeatedly alleged on the air that you were "under investigation" -- according to sources we later learned had an ax to grind -- for, say, journalistic fraud. If nothing ever came of that alleged investigation, yet the TV station never said another word about the matter, then you might understand the no-win position I'm in. When the news media public identifies someone as the target of criminal investigation, nothing ever comes of it, and there's some doubt he ever was the target, how does he see to get his reputation back? Do journalists have any professional responsibility to update, if not to correct, the record? Or does the person whose reputation was sullied simply have to live with an indelible blot that follows him to the grave? While the reporter keeps his award."

Attorney R. Tamara de Silva commented that, "I received a letter from Representative Paul Froehlich addressed to Dane Placko, which reminded my of a quotation from Rush Limbaugh, 'The drive-by media. It's like a drive-by shooter except the microphones are the guns, and they drive into groups of people, they report a bunch of totally wrong libelous stuff about people. Sometimes people get really harmed. They go out and try to destroy people's careers.' This case is a battle for accountability. The major networks assume that no one will ever fight back because of the David and Goliath nature of suing the media in the age of sensationalized tabloid journalism. Similarly, whatever local government officials in Cook County may think-no entity, however powerful, should be allowed to trample upon the rights of private citizens simply because they think they can."