CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County’s top tax man is in the hot seat.

CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards has exposed the millions of dollars in political donations that Assessor Joseph Berrios has received from tax appeal attorneys.

Tuesday, he attended a Cook County board hearing, where Berrios was questioned about his office’s treatment of homeowners.

“My concern is whether the poor people in Cook County are getting the shaft,” Commissioner Chuy Garcia said during the hearing.

 

“Does anyone here really think that I would allow unfair treatment in minority communities?” Berrios retorted.

Berrios offered one expert defending the current system, Dr. Richard Borst, who said, “This is inconsistent with mass appraisal, theory and practice.”

Dr. Borst, though, works for Tyler Technologies, which has $66 million in Cook County contracts.

“The property tax system as it exists in Cook County today is neither fair nor accurate,” said University of Chicago Professor Christopher Berry.

Berry favors an alternative system.

He pointed out that currently in Cook County, the average $100,000 sold home was assessed at 11 percent, whereas the average $1 million sold home was assessed at 7.8 percent — lower priced homes assessed at 40 percent more.

“Now I have described this situation as institutional racism,” Berry said. “I am not saying that Joe Berrios or anybody on his staff is racist. I am saying, and the data clearly supports, that the assessment system that we have produces racially discriminatory assessments and taxes.”

Tuesday night, Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, has enlisted a pro bono group for a thorough review of the property tax system.

One of the professors at Tuesday’s hearing responded to that by saying you don’t need another study to say the system broke.

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