Race for Frankfort Township assessor’s office contentious
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 22, 2013 9:58PM
Updated: April 25, 2013 7:17AM
Four years ago, the Frankfort Township assessor’s race was deeply contentious, with longtime incumbent Paul Ruff kicking his opponent, independent candidate Joe Kral, off the ballot and forcing him to run as a write-in.
Despite the odds, Kral won that election easily — indicative of the public’s lack of confidence in Ruff.
Now, Kral, this time seeking re-election on the Republican slate, is under fire from township Democrats, who claimed he “flipped sides” after they worked to get him elected in 2009.
Ironically, the Democrats have slated another Republican — George Perros — to oppose Kral in the April 9 election.
Perros, a Summit Hill School District 161 Board member and former Will County supervisor of assessments, said he is still a Republican but embraces the local Democrats’ positions on greater transparency and reduced spending in the township.
Joining Kral on the Republican slate are incumbent Supervisor Jim Moustis, Trustees Nick George, David Smith, Gregory Griffin and Bruce Ebert, and Highway Commissioner Bill Carlson, with Nella Piccolin running for clerk.
In addition to Perros, the Democrats have slated Mario Carlasare for supervisor, Tim Gaffney, Colleen Marie Hassell, Michael Jarigese and Denise Lenz for trustees, with Michael Benoit for highway commissioner and Mary Louise Knoerzer for clerk.
Party differences aside, both camps have engaged in a bit of mudslinging.
“Everything is so different from what (Kral) said it would be. It’s the ultimate hypocrisy,” Democratic slate spokesman Joe Carlasare said. “He completely changed.”
The Democrats accused Kral and other township officials of nepotism (they hired Moustis’ two children, and personal friends), and overspending ($1.5 million for a foreclosed condo building for senior apartments whose residents include Kral’s father and township administrator Hugh Stipan.)
Democrats also stated there is “no transparency” and “no checks and balances” in township government and said the salaries of township officials are “ridiculous.”
“They (township Republicans) are expanding a government that should not be expanded,” Carlasare said.
They filed a complaint with the state’s inspector general, claiming that Kral “misappropriated funds” when he mailed a postcard informing homeowners of his “soft appeal” process, calling it a political mailing because the timing of it was too close to the election.
Kral dismissed their claims as “political garbage.”
The postcard — paid for by the assessor’s office — was to inform homeowners about a service he started two years ago, he said.
The first six months of the year “is the time to set assessments, the time to meet with me to explain it,” he said. “It’s important that people get involved.”
Last year, Kral discussed the soft appeal process at local libraries and drew 800 people. This year, he hoped to double that.
Kral said he has worked to overcome the reputation of his predecessor, Ruff.
“This office is the opposite of Paul Ruff,” Kral said. “Just ask the residents I have served.”
He said he hired Matthew Moustis, who “worked extremely hard,” as a seasonal, part-time employee.
“I hate the politics of this job. I just want to do a good job,” Kral said.
But a separate March 12 mailing — paid for by Friends of Joe Kral — is purely political. In that, Kral claimed that Perros, while serving as the county’s supervisor of assessments, from 1982 to 1990, came under scrutiny and ultimately resigned. He listed numerous newspaper articles from the late 1980s that criticized Perros’ work as the county’s supervisor of assessments and he created a webpage, www.therealgeorgeperros.com.
According to those accounts, during Perros’ tenure, two school districts filed a lawsuit claiming that assessments were not fair and accused the county of not challenging the tax appeals on property owned by top Will County Republicans.
A citizens “blue ribbon” panel was convened back then to review Perros’ office and the board of review (for tax appeals) and concluded that “taxpayers in Will County are justified in their lack of confidence in the assessment process and assessment administrative personnel to bring about equitable and uniform assessments at the county level.”
It listed 25 recommendations for reform in the supervisor of assessment’s office, noting that Perros’ office and the board of review should “be committed to avoiding any hint of conflict of interest” and “any suggestion of ethical impropriety.”
At the time, Ruff was a member of the board of review.
Perros said it was all political.
Then, he was a Republican in an appointed position. When a Democrat came in as county executive, he wanted the appointed seats filled by Democrats.
“I resigned from pure frustration. I didn’t need the aggravation,” Perros said, explaining that they restricted his budget and micro-managed his office.
The news articles contained nothing more than “innuendos,” and Kral “distorted the information to salvage his campaign,” he said.
The Democratic party was aware of Perros’ past when they asked him to run for assessor, Carlasare said.