Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is facing criminal charges and a petition by the Indiana Democratic Party to have him removed from office because he allegedly voted at a precinct in which he did not live at the time he became a candidate for Secretary of State. A Chicago Democratic state legislator has been doing something even worse for years and getting by with it. Sen. Annazette Collins was just recently appointed to a state senate seat on Chicago's west side after representing the same area in Illinois' House of Representatives for the past decade. It turns out she has a condo in Hyde Park on which she has been claiming a homeowner's exemption for property tax purposes since 2000 while listing an apartment in her legislative district as her registered voting address. Fox Chicago News has the story:
One way or another, new State Senator Annazette Collins has a problem.The story gets more interesting when you learn that Collins was also bumped from the voting registration rolls in her legislative district in 2010 after a canvass card was returned to the Board of Elections:
FOX Chicago News has found that Collins is claiming a homeowner's exemption on a condo in Hyde Park while also claiming that she lives in the district she represents on the West Side.
Democratic committeemen appointed then-Representative Collins to take over Rickey Hendon's seat last month. Since she's represented the same area since 2001, her actual residency was never raised as an issue during the appointment process.
But while Collins lists a rental unit on Warren Boulevard as her home on campaign and voting records, she's been collecting that homeowner's exemption on a condo five miles south of her legislative district. The law requires individuals to live in their homes in order to qualify for the tax break.
Kelley Quinn of the Cook County Assessor's office said their records show Collins has received $2,300 in property tax breaks for allegedly living in the condo in Hyde Park.
"According to our records, that is where she lives. We don't have proof of her owning any other property in Cook County," Quinn said. Collins would have been required to sign a form stating she lives at the Hyde Park address.
And the Chicago Board of Elections said Collins' voting status was de-activated in 2010 when a canvass card sent to the West Side address where she said she lives was returned by the post office as "not deliverable." Collins has since been reinstated.
Collins dismissed the allegations raised by the news report and told the reporter her opponents always claims she doesn't live in her district.
Collins refused to explain why has been claiming a homeowner's exemption on a property outside of her district. She said she bought the Hyde Park condo before she ran for office in 2000, and is now renting it to her mother and brother.Despite Collins' claims that she lives in the rented apartment, Fox News Chicago found evidence she was still receiving her mail at her Hyde Park condo address, including a mortgage foreclosue suit that was filed on it:
"You know every year when I run for re-election they say I don't live where I live," Collins said. "And every year it's proven that I live there. But you never report that. You never report any of the good things that we do."
Yet we found legal documents that show she is still receiving mail at the Hyde Park address, including letters from the mortgage company and a debt collection agency. The condo is being foreclosed.
Notwithstanding Collins' dismissive attitude towards the charges, the failure to live in one's district has been taken seriously in the not so distant past in Illinois:
Under the law, members of the General Assembly are required to live in the districts they represent. And that law is taken seriously: in 2005, lawmaker Patricia Bailey was removed from office after she was charged and convicted for living outside her district.The story notes Collins could also be prosecuted for falsely claiming the homeowner's exemption on her condo.