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Assessor Joe Berrios says county’s ethics rules don’t apply to him

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios says the county’s ethics rules don’t apply to him.

That’s despite the Cook County Ethics Board ruling he violated local ordinance by hiring his son and sister to work for him, recommending he fire them and slapping him with a $10,000 fine for the offense, as the Sun-Times first reported this week.

In a prepared statement, Berrios offered a refrain other elected leaders have invoked over the years: that the ethics ordinance applies to the board president and commissioners but not other elected leaders.

“State’s Attorney’s opinions dating back to 1994 have concluded that the county’s ethics ordinance does not apply to independently elected officials, and we believe the same is true in this matter,” Berrios said. “In the meantime, my attorney will be waiting for an official notice from the ethics board so that it can be properly reviewed.”

Berrios, acknowledging he first heard about the board’s findings from a Sun-Times reporter who obtained a report detailing the findings, said as of Tuesday he still hadn’t obtained an official copy.

“I am aware of the notice of findings issued by the Cook County Board of Ethics dated June 20, 2012. However, I have only heard of this report through the media after this ‘confidential’ document was leaked to the Chicago Sun-Times,” Berrios said in the statement.

“In fact, as of Tuesday afternoon, June 26th, I still have not received an official notification from the ethics board. It is a shame that I have to hear details of this matter through the press without being provided an official copy of their findings or any explanation of what evidence the Board considered in arriving at its decision. This is not conduct that I would expect from a panel charged with enforcing ethics in the county.”

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