The long-time chairman of the Cook County Board of Ethics resigned this week, just a day after the Better Government Association, in concert with WGN-TV and Chicago magazine, released a report raising troubling questions about his own ethics.
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
The departing chairman, John Pikarski Jr., apparently was helping to oversee an investigation of Joseph Berrios—exploring whether the new Cook County assessor violated nepotism rules by hiring relatives for government jobs.
The problem, as the BGA investigation discovered, was that Pikarski has donated generously to Berrios’s political campaigns. And, just as concerning, Pikarski is an attorney with clients regularly appearing in front of the Board of Review—when Berrios was a commissioner there—asking for their property tax assessments to be scaled back.
Seems like a pretty clear conflict of interest.
Pikarski—though a public figure through his role on the ethics panel—never saw fit to answer questions about this and other matters despite months of pestering.
(One of the other questions, by the way, was: did Pikarski or his firm violate campaign contribution limits?)
Even so, Pikarski’s exodus was a comment in and of itself.
Hopefully, his successor will cast aside Pikarski’s unacceptable way of doing business and champion the BGA’s call to make taxpayer-supported Cook County government more ethical, open and responsive to its residents’ needs.