President’s Chicago tax appeal on Trump Tower is under investigation
State inspector general, Pritzker administration are looking into allegation a Republican state agency head pressured staff to slash by $1M the $2.5M in property taxes Donald Trump paid in 2012.
Mired in delays for seven years, President Donald Trump’s appeal for a refund of at least $1 million on his Chicago skyscraper is now the subject of two state of Illinois investigations that center on whether a Republican state official pressured his staff to cut the president a break.
Trump’s appeal of the 2012 property taxes he paid for Trump International Hotel & Tower has come under scrutiny by the state’s executive inspector general’s office and then Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Those are the result of an anonymous complaint the inspector general’s office received last fall that Mauro Glorioso, the executive director of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, pressured his staff to rule in the president’s favor, rejecting the staff’s decision to deny Trump any refund.
Glorioso is a Republican attorney from Westchester the Democratic governor appointed as the state property tax agency’s executive director last summer.
Pritzker’s staff wouldn’t confirm that a complaint has been filed against Glorioso and four members of Glorioso’s staff. But the governor’s office has opened its own inquiry regarding Trump’s appeal.
“The administration is determined to get to the bottom of what happened in this situation and will ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted,” Pritzker’s communications director Emily Bittner says.
“PTAB should take no action until an investigation is complete,” Bittner says. “In general, it would be entirely inappropriate for a legal decision on a property tax appeal to be impacted by any of the conduct alleged in this complaint, including the allegations of political motivations improperly driving the decision-making.”
Pritzker himself came under fire for getting a total of $330,000 in property tax cuts by claiming the historic mansion he bought next door to his home on the city’s Gold Coast was “uninhabitable.” That was after he let it fall into disrepair and disconnected all of the toilets, the Sun-Times revealed in 2017.
Glorioso didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
He has been a member of the state board since 2008, rising to chairman under Republican former Gov. Bruce Rauner. Glorioso held that post until Pritzker appointed him last summer as PTAB’s executive director and general counsel, overseeing property tax appeals from across the state. Glorioso is paid $115,020 a year.
The state Office of the Executive Inspector General wouldn’t confirm that it received a complaint regarding Glorioso and Trump’s appeal.
The Sun-Times filed a public records request with PTAB for correspondence among the inspector general, Glorioso, chief PTAB administrative law judge Steven Waggoner and hearing officer Simeon Nockov. According to the complaint, Nockov decided Trump didn’t prove his hotel and retail space had been overvalued by the Cook County Board of Review, a three-member, elected panel. After Trump appealed, the county agency had reduced the original property assessment made by former Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios but not as much as Trump wanted. Trump then appealed to the state.
Glorioso and his staff rejected the records request, saying, “The requested documents appear to be confidential and exempt from provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.”
PTAB also refused to release Nockov’s reports or drafts because the Trump appeal is still unresolved.
Waggoner didn’t respond to questions regarding the allegation before the inspector general but says the state board, not PTAB’s staff, will determine whether Trump’s assessment is reduced, which would trigger a tax refund.
“The written decision that is ultimately issued will include the board’s findings and rationale for making its determination of the correct assessment,” Waggoner says. “The board’s decisions are then subject to administrative review.”
Trump’s appeal was filed May 11, 2012, by Ald. Edward M. Burke and his law firm Klafter & Burke. Burke challenged the $62.4 million value Cook County officials placed on the skyscraper’s hotel and retail space, much of which has never been occupied.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which is fighting the appeal, argued the tax cuts Burke sought for Trump could cost taxpayers $1 million of the $2.5 million Trump paid in 2012 for the hotel room’s and retail space.
Half of that would come from the Chicago Public Schools and about 20 percent from the city of Chicago. City Hall and the school system could have intervened in Trump’s appeal but didn’t.
The county hasn’t produced any evidence to counter an estimate presented by Burke from appraiser Arthur Murphy, who argued at a public hearing on Dec. 12, 2017, that the skyscraper’s vacant and never-leased retail space along the Chicago River downtown had a “negative value, so it’s no value.”
A month later, Nockov, the PTAB hearing officer, issued his decision on Trump’s appeal.
Nockov’s decision has never been made public. No further hearings are scheduled.
Nockov won’t comment.
Burke, whose law firm has won more than $14 million in property tax refunds for Trump’s skyscraper over the years, couldn’t be reached.
Burke’s law firm stopped representing Trump in May 2018. Burke announced that decision after his brother, then-state Rep. Dan Burke, lost a Democratic primary election amid outrage from Hispanic voters over the alderman’s legal work for a president pushing to build a wall along the Mexican border in a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Burke turned over his Trump cases to Patrick McNerney, an attorney with the law firm of Mayer Brown. McNerney is representing Trump in three other cases now before PTAB, including one filed in December, and five other cases pending in Cook County circuit court.
McNerney didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.