A press release from Grafton Township Assessor Al Zielinski:
Grafton Township Assessor Laments a Return to Acrimony.
HUNTLEY, IL (August 21, 2015) – “Maybe there’s something in the water preventing the township from working together in the interests of its residents.” mused Alan Zielinski, the Grafton Township Assessor.
Focus on Fair and Accurate Assessments
“Regardless of the obstacles placed before us by the Supervisor and Board of Trustees, our office performedadmirably. Our focus is replicating our exemplary performance in 2015 and beyond.” stated Zielinski.
In 2014, Grafton’s assessments generated the best equalizer in McHenry County. It was the only township in that county to meet or exceed the Department of Revenue’s specifications for assessment accuracy.
That year, Grafton assessed more than 15,000 of its almost 22,000 parcels with 36% receiving increases and 64% receiving decreases.
“It’s not as if we were bored looking for work.” quipped Zielinski.
“It’s a perfect example of the vast assessment disparity and inequity we inherited when I took office January 1, 2013.”
Balancing Personal Privacy and Office Transparency
Regarding claims his office violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Zielinski was straightforward.
“Our overarching policy is the Assessor’s Office is a distinct, elected office answering only to the voters of Grafton Township, not its Supervisor and/or Trustees.
“Our office always has been, is, and will remain, in absolute compliance with all applicable statutes.”
Citing numerous sections of the Illinois Property Tax Code and Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Assessor’s Office is convinced it is a distinct public body as defined by the FOIA. As such, Zielinski believes the office should have its own FOIA Officer.“
The public is best served by having an Assessor’s Office FOIA Officer who is available and qualified to address valuation requests on a daily basis, not the part-time alternative offered by the Supervisor and Board.”
From outward appearances, the Board’s selection for a township-wide FOIA Officer, the Township Clerk, spends less than one day per month in the office.
Nonetheless, the Board at its April, 2015 meeting decided to appoint an Assistant Clerk to assist her.
Zielinski believes the FOIA’s intent is balancing transparency while protecting personal privacy.
Zielinski cited the following from the FOIA’s opening section. “This Act is not intended to cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,”
Grafton Township Assessor’s Office policy is individual PINs, available on its and other web sites, as well as township-wide PINs, are public records.
However, neighborhood-specific PINs are private data because they can be used to locate a specific home address. Zielinski conveyed the basis for that policy is the FOIA itself which protects personal privacy by specifying home addresses as private information.
Moving from quoting statutes to personal beliefs, Zielinski conveyed the softer side of his office’s policy.
“My experience working as a volunteer in a battered women’s shelter helped form this policy because I personally saw the extent to which some individuals will go trying to track down their estranged spouse or mate.
“The suggestion to ‘Let law enforcement deal with the matter’ is a purely political, kick the can down the road, alternative that works only until the Coroner is removing a battered corpse.”