A leading candidate in the 1st District County Board race has claimed property tax homestead exemptions that he didn't qualify for. Richard Boykin has claimed exemptions on three pieces if property, two condominiums in Oak Park and a home in Bolingbrook. A taxpayer is only allowed to claim the homestead exemption on a home that is the taxpayer's personal residence.
Boykin, a former chief of staff to Congressman Danny Davis (D- Chicago) and a partner in the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, told the Wednesday Journal that he was not aware of his multiple homestead exemptions until recently. Once he learned of the issue Boykins says that he quickly took steps to correct the mistake that saved him thousands of dollars on his property taxes.
On February 6, 2014 Boykin faxed both the Will County and Cook County Assessors offices asking that the homestead exemption that he had claimed on two properties that he owns be cancelled.
"That was brought to my attention a couple of days ago," Boykin told the Wednesday Journal last week.
"We've signed the appropriate forms to waive those exemptions on those two properties. I'm only going to claim it for the one that I'm living in.
Boykin said that he lives in a condominium at 106 S. Ridgeland in Oak Park that he purchased last summer. Prior to that he said he lived at a condominium at 431 S. Harvey Ave. in Oak Park that he purchased in 2005. Boykin said that he has rented out the Harvey Ave. condominium since he moved to the Ridgeland Ave condo last summer. Both condominiums are titled in Boykin's name alone.
In 2011 Boykin and his wife, Daphne Boykin, purchased a home in Bolingbrook in Will County. Boykin also claimed a homestead exemption worth $6,000 for the Bolingbrook home. Boykin says that he is currently separated from his wife and that only his wife and son live at the Bolingbrook home meaning that Boykin would not qualify for the homestead exemption on the home.
"I've never lived there," Boykin said.
Boykin said that claiming multiple homestead exemptions was just a mistake he made that he is now correcting.
"Until it was brought to my attention I didn't know, to be honest with you, I hadn't even thought about that stuff," Boykin said." Obviously when we found out about it we did the necessary things in order to make it right."
Boykin's opponents in the Democratic primary don't buy that explanation.
"We're talking about almost two years of him having a homeowner's exemption" said Ron Lawless an Oak Parker who ran and lost a race for the 1st District County Board seat in 2010 running as the candidate of the Green Party. "The only reason he is addressing this issue is that he got caught."
Lawless said claiming multiple homestead exemptions reflect poorly on Boykin no matter what the explanation.
"If he can't handle his own personal business what makes you think he can handle my business as a Cook County Commissioner," Lawless said. "He's an attorney. If anybody should know better it should be him. He is an officer of the court. He's a person who knows the law. He knows what should be legal and what's illegal. You're either incompetent or dishonest."
Candidate Blake Sercye, a 27 year old third year associate at the prestigious law firm of Jenner & Block, also isn't buying Boykin's explanation.
"I think it is disappointing that someone who lives in Bolingbrook is running for this office," Sercye said. "You know people who claim multiple homestead exemptions cheat honest taxpayers out of millions of dollars each year and it's unfair for Mr. Boykin to claim that he's lived in Oak Park for however long when from what I've told he bought a place 40 days before he filed his petitions."
But Boykin says he never lived in Bolingbrook and made an honest mistake that he is now correcting.
"I'm not a real estate lawyer," Boykin said. "It's an oversight. I didn't know. When it was brought to my attention I corrected it. I would never attempt to try to abuse the system. That's not who I am.
"I'll pay whatever I have to. I'm not worried about that. I'll do whatever I need to make it right," he added.
Boykin's opponents also fault him for supporting Republican Mark Kirk in the 2010 Senate race in Illinois and making some other financial contributions to other Republicans.
Boykin acknowledges backing Kirk and says that it is an advantage that he has friends in both parties.
"Mark Kirk has been a good friend of mine for a number of years," Boykin said. "I did support Senator Kirk in the Senate race. I'm proud to be a bridge builder. I've supported Republicans in the past. I've supported more Democrats. I'm proud to be a lifelong and loyal Democrat. In the work that we do you need to bring everybody together from both sides. I think part of the problem in Washington right now is that you have so much partisanship."
Boykin said that he can use his relationship with Kirk to help the residents for the 1st District and that the attacks on him for supporting Republicans in the past are going to fall flat.
"I've heard those allegations and I think it's going to backfire on them," Boykin said. "The real deal is people want to know can you get things done for them. I'm the only candidate in this race who can call a Democratic senator and get my call returned and call the Republican senator from the state of Illinois and get my call returned."
Boykin acknowledged that he has made contributions to the campaigns of Republican representatives John Shimkus (R-Illinois), former Representative Mark Souder and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), one of two African Americans in the Senate and a tea party favorite.
"The preponderance of my contributions have been to Democrats, but I have contributed to some Republicans," Boykin said.
Sercye said that he understands that lobbyists often contribute to officeholders of both parties but he particularly faulted Boykin for a $1,500 donation to Scott.
"I don't think Tim Scott is somebody who represents the values of a true Democrat in the First District," Sercye said.
The other two candidates in the race are former Chicago alderman Isaac "Ike" Carothers and Brenda Smith who is an administrative assistant to retiring commissioner Earlean Collins and a former chief of staff to Carothers.
Carothers pled guilty in 2011 to accepting a $40,000 bribe and was sentenced to 28 months in prison. He now works for the Safer Foundation.
Most political observers expect the race to come down to a battle between Boykin and Carothers with Sercye perhaps capable of pulling off a surprise upset. Serce attended St. John Lutheran elementary school in Forest Park and Fenwick High School.
Carothers has the most name recognition, although some of it is negative. He appears to be banking on strong support from the remnants of his 29th Ward Democratic Organization and has been endorsed by 37th ward alderwoman Emma Mitts. He is also relying on a strong showing in the Chicago portion of the district hoping to triumph in what is expected to be a very low turnout primary.
Boykin has raised the most money and is being supported by many suburban mayors and has strong backing from Danny Davis. Boykin has also been endorsed by the Proviso Township Democratic Organization. Forest Park Village Commissioner Rory Hoskins supports Boykin. Mayor Anthony Calderone said he has not yet made an endorsement in the race.
This article has been updated to correct the fact that Sen. Tim Scott is one of two African American senators.