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Chicago City Wire

Monday, February 17, 2020

Northwest Side GOP leader Kessem recalls former Cook County Assessor's 'conflict of interest'


By Glenn Minnis | Dec 20, 2019

Northwest Side GOP Club Vice President and 41st Ward Committee candidate Ammie Kessem

Republican Ammie Kessem, candidate in the March 2020 41st Ward Committeeman election, says she was not surprised by reports that former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios is now under federal investigation.

“It’s not surprising, since my opponent (Kessem's 2018 Democratic rival in the District 19 general election, Robert Martwick Jr.) was receiving thousands of dollars in payments for some ‘consulting’ work he did for [Berrios] while he was moonlighting as a tax appeals attorney,” Kessem told Chicago City Wire. “Talk about a conflict of interest. On top of that, Martwick (D-Chicago) failed to report this income to the Secretary of State’s office.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, such conflicts of interest may be catching up to Berrios after a federal grand jury subpoena was recently served on him, requesting documents tied to his 31st Ward Democratic Organization, his Friends of Berrios campaign fund and the Mexican American Political Action Committee. Reports are that the subpoena seeks information related to Berrios’ retirement party along with all items “related to any official action taken in exchange for a benefit.”

Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios

“Reporting all this was something he was legally bound to do and is actually a misdemeanor crime not to,” said Kessem, who also serves as vice president of the Northwest Side GOP Club. “But of course he was never prosecuted because [Cook County Board President] Toni Preckwinkle was also paying him for services that he never disclosed.”

Berrios garnered just 33 percent of the vote in the 2018 Democratic primary in relinquishing his office to Fritz Kaegi. Soon after that, he stepped down as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and relinquished the 31st Ward Democratic Committeeman post he held for more than three decades.

During his run against Kaegi, Berrios came under heavy fire stemming from allegations he routinely undervalued major downtown commercial properties at the cost of unsuspecting homeowners.

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Cook County AssessorChicago Sun-Times

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