The following information is from a submitted press release:

Five elected township assessors, including Ela Township Assessor John Barrington, and seven taxpayers, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lake County Chief County Assessment Official, Martin Paulson, Lake County and the Lake County Board of Review.

The three-count lawsuit was filed on October 27, 2016, by the elected assessors of Grant Township, Cuba Township, Libertyville Township, Ela Township and Vernon Township.

The lawsuit alleges that Paulson is blocking the township assessors from properly valuing property because he seeks to abolish and overtake their offices. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Paulson’s office completely reversed changes that the township assessors made in valuations of over 17,000 parcels in less than 72 hours, without regard to the reasons why the valuation of the parcels had changed and solely in retaliation against the township assessors.

In addition, the lawsuit details numerous provisions of the Property Tax Code that Paulson is not properly following and requests a court order requiring him to follow the law. The lawsuit also alleges that Paulson and the Board of Review are making “off the record” deals with certain taxpayers outside of public hearings, and that such deals are improper and hurting other taxpayers.  

“We are required to consider changes to properties annually to determine whether the property’s assessment has changed. For example, if a house burns down, we reduce the value. If a house adds an addition, we increase the value.  Paulson completely eliminated all of our changes within a matter of hours,” stated Grant Township Assessor Jeri Barr.

Libertyville Township Assessor Peggy Freese echoed these concerns. “In my township, a taxpayer’s advocate called Paulson and received a $11,000,000 reduction in their property’s valuation – resulting in tax savings of about $910,000 to that taxpayer without any hearing or evidence at all.”

The lawsuit alleges that Paulson’s arbitrary reduction of valuation of some parcels and his disregard of the township assessors changes results in higher taxes for other taxpayers who are similarly situated.

“When a taxpayer receives a significant reduction in their assessment, their property taxes are reduced. However, local governments still need those funds and the revenue has to come from somewhere, so it raises the taxes of all of the other taxpayers,” stated Rebecca Tonigan, Cuba Township Assessor.

Gary Raupp, Vernon Township Assessor, stated, “We cannot allow this inequity to continue. We were elected to ensure that properties are valued correctly and uniformly. The County cannot simply undo all of our work for no reason and hurt the taxpayers.”  

John Barrington, the Ela Township Assessor, stated, “We tried for a long time to work this out amicably with Paulson’s office and our County Board representatives. We never wanted to have to file a lawsuit like this, but the County Board has turned a blind eye to our concern for fair property values. 

Several taxpayers joined in the lawsuit, arguing that Paulson’s failure to follow many of the sections of the Illinois Property Tax Code have denied them of their federal constitutional rights to equal protection. They seek a court order requiring Paulson and the County Board of Review to follow the law with respect to property valuation in the future.   

For more information, please contact attorney Keri-Lyn J. Krafthefer at (312) 604-9126 or email kkrafthefer@ancelglink.com.

Ela Township Assessor John Barrington can be reached at 847-438-8370 or via email at jbarrington@elaassessor.org.

Open Letter from Ela Township Assessor