This past Friday, Governor Bruce Rauner issued Executive Order 2018-01 entitled “Executive Order to Eliminate Impermissible Conflicts of Interest at the Property Tax Appeals Board”. The Order states that the PTAB “shall allow no State legislator to participate in any way in any representation case on any matter before the [PTAB]” and directs the PTAB to amend its rules of practice and procedure to reflect the Order. A copy of the Order can be found here.
The Order seems to be aimed directly at Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton both of whom maintain significant property tax practices through their respective law firms, representing taxpayers before local assessors, boards of review, at the PTAB, and in the circuit courts. The Order cites to the Illinois Code of Personal Conduct as authority that State officials may not engage in outside employment that conflicts with their official duties and responsibilities. The Order also references the recent Chicago Tribune series entitled “The Tax Divide”, an investigative series on the Cook County property tax system and the appeals process which examined 1) how the tax burden is allocated between more and less affluent communities and the apparent lack of uniformity based upon the Tribune’s findings, 2) how the appeals process exacerbates the inequity in the property tax system, and 3) a lawsuit involving how former Assessor James Houlihan and his successor Joseph Berrios have dealt with errors in the assessment process. You can link to our Alert on the Tribune story here. Subsequent Tribune reporting has included an analysis of the law firms filing most of the appeals at the Cook County Assessor’s office.
As a State agency, the PTAB’s rulemaking process is conducted through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking (JCAR). JCAR is composed of twelve members of the General Assembly, six from each of the House and Senate apportioned equally between the two political parties. The members of JCAR are appointed by the legislative leadership, meaning that Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton appoint the members. We are not aware of any independent rulemaking authority that the PTAB may have outside the JCAR process.
The Order is the latest move in the ongoing skirmishing between the Governor and the General Assembly. We will keep you apprised of any changes we see at the PTAB because of this Order.