The tax appeals panel concluded that it "does not have sufficient evidence to establish" that either Ricketts or attorney
The state's attorney's office does have such power. The tax board, which took a look at Ricketts' appeal following a Tribune report, did not specify whether it's seeking a criminal or civil review. A spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney
Ricketts' attorney, former federal prosecutor
Ricketts, who is finance chairman of the
The tax appeals board also referred the matter to the
FortCamp is a partner at
The Tuesday referrals by the county panel came after the Tribune first reported in July that for close to a decade, Ricketts had been paying property taxes based on the value of the much older and smaller house that he tore down in 2007 instead of the new one that was completed a few years later.
The error lingered for so long because the county assessor's office said it never received notice the new home had been built and failed to detect the discrepancy during subsequent assessments. And when FortCamp had a chance to tell officials about the new home during a 2013 tax appeal, he filed an appeal based on the old home.
As part of that paperwork, FortCamp submitted a 2007 photo of Ricketts' old house pulled from the assessor's website. While the website listed the date of the photo, the photo FortCamp filed omitted it. The tax appeals board said it "finds troubling the elimination of the date stamp."
The board also noted that six months before the tax appeal was filed, a reassessment notice was mailed to Ricketts that "plainly shows a photo of the old house and states outdated property information." Ricketts was mailed similar reassessment notices twice more after that -- "official government correspondence that (Ricketts) knew to be untrue," the tax appeals board wrote.
After the Tribune's report, the county assessor revalued Ricketts' home. The second look will more than double Ricketts' property tax bill next year and triggered payments of more than
The back taxes were not due until next year, but Ricketts paid them in late July based on calculations by the county treasurer's office of what he will owe, according to county documents and Collins' letter.
Ricketts is still coming out ahead because his property was assessed as though his old home were still standing for nine years -- not the three years he was dinged for. State law only allows him to be billed for back taxes for three years.
Ricketts still could appeal his revised 2019 assessment that will determine next year's tax bill, but Collins' letter indicated Ricketts will not do so. Ricketts' assessment increased from
The tax saga began after
Plans submitted to Wilmette officials show the couple was building a contemporary two-story house of about 5,000 square feet. The plans also included an 800-square-foot garage and extra outdoor parking spaces on a manicured lot with outdoor patios and a koi pond. The house was completed in
The property, however, continued to be taxed as if the 2,534-square-foot old home hadn't been torn down.
State law required Ricketts to notify the assessor's office when the home was issued an occupancy permit, but a spokesman for the office said there are no records to indicate he did. And the assessor's office never detected the change on its own -- an omission local property tax experts say is not uncommon in the county's vast system.
"It never occurred to
Collins said in his letter that FortCamp, the tax attorney, was not aware that Ricketts had built a new home, and that Ricketts signed the tax appeal paperwork without seeing the photographs that were submitted. Ricketts believed that his business manager -- who Collins did not name in his letter -- would work with FortCamp to get the proper photos, according to the letter.
Collins also noted that FortCamp included in the tax appeal a photograph of the vacant side yard that showed Ricketts' new house in the background. And during a subsequent tax appeal the following year, FortCamp requested that the assessor's office come take a look, Collins wrote.
"(FortCamp's) 2014 tax appeal regarding the vacant yard repeatedly asked for field inspections of the property, any one of which would have revealed the true state of affairs," the letter states. "These facts alone demonstrate the lack of any intent to deceive on
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Ricketts is one of four siblings in a billionaire family that owns the Cubs. He is on the Cubs board of directors, which is chaired by his brother,
The family secured an
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