The three members of the DuPage County Board of Review — a government panel that handles property tax appeals from home and business owners — were appointed or reappointed by Robert Schillerstrom during his 12-year stint as DuPage County Board chairman.
Now a lawyer in private practice, Schillerstrom’s income depends on decisions made by those same people — raising conflict-of-interest questions on both sides of the equation, the Better Government Association found.
Schillerstrom left his elected post in 2010 after an unsuccessful Republican bid for governor. The next year he launched a property tax appeals practice for his Indianapolis-based law firm, Ice Miller LLP. The practice is based in Lisle and focuses, in part, on tax appeals before the DuPage Board of Review.
He’s had success, winning nearly all of his cases and getting tax breaks for his clients that in many instances exceeded the countywide average, a BGA analysis found.
There is no restriction preventing Schillerstrom from doing business through the Board of Review, according to the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office.
Schillerstrom, county board chairman from 1998 to 2010, said good lawyering, not politics, is behind his success. I do it the right way and I’m good at it,” he says.
Board of Review members, two of whom donated money to Schillerstrom’s campaign fund in past years, insist they aren’t showing favoritism.Sure they do. Read a little further into the story and you learn that the part-time board of review members earn $40,000 a year. Not bad, eh? Tell me you're not going to look favorably on the man responsible for a obtaining part-time gig for you that pays that well. In Indiana, we generally don't pay people who get appointed to part-time positions serving on state and local boards and commissions; however, in Indiana it is unlikely that you will be appointed to a board or commission unless you are someone who the persons doing the appointing can count on to perform favors for them. People capable of exercising independent judgment are generally not valued in Indiana by the ruling political class for obvious reasons.
“He can’t do us any favors — he’s gone,” said member Charles Van Slyke Jr.
“We’re making decisions based on evidence,” said another member, Carl Peterson. “It would be erroneous to think we give him special consideration.”
The third member, Anthony Bonavolonta, said if Schillerstrom were still the county board chairman, the Board of Review would not be hearing his cases. But now that Schillerstrom has left county government, “You can’t stop a guy from making a living.”
“I treat him like I treat everyone else,” he added.