Grafton candidate puzzled by residency questions

HUNTLEY – A challenger for Grafton Township assessor found himself fending off questions from voters about his campaign and township residency weeks before his candidacy was even made official.

Residents began to question challenger Al Zielinski of Lakewood after he was spotted with embattled Supervisor Linda Moore at one of his campaign benefits in late October.

Commentators on Huntley’s community blog – Huntley Neighbors – immediately questioned Zielinski’s 2012 property tax bill that showed he had taken a $6,000 homestead exemption on a home in Lake Barrington in Lake County.

The exemption is allowed for only homeowners who live at a residency.

Zielinski said he was puzzled by the controversy because he has lived in his home off Turnberry Lane since late 2011 and dismissed it as another example of the public polarization within the township.

“The secretary of state knows I live on Turnberry. The IRS knows that I live on Turnberry,” Zielinski said. “There’s really no issue or secret or anything vaguely oblique about the situation.”

Illinois law states township candidates cannot run for office until they have lived within the township for a year.

Zielinski, who also runs a property valuation business, said he forgot to notify the assessor in Cuba Township, which covers Lake Barrington, of his move to Lakewood before the 2012 assessments were delivered.

He still owns the Lake Barrington home, but he said he is making renovations to it before putting it on the real estate market.

Cuba Township assessor officials also confirmed this week that the homestead exemption was wrongly granted to Zielinski because the office was not aware he had moved. The assessor has put in a request to the county to remove the exemption on Zielinski’s bill, officials said.

Zielinski successfully filed his nominating petition last week for Grafton assessor. He will challenge incumbent Bill Ottley in the February primary.

But Zielinski said he was surprised that people questioned his campaign so quickly after the late October benefit. He said Moore attended the event because proceeds were being sent to the Grafton Township Food Pantry.

“I haven’t tied myself to any trustees, to any candidates,” Zielinski said. “To me, the best thing that could happen to Grafton Township is to have a big vacuum cleaner attached to the side and a total change of management.”

Moore and Grafton’s four trustees have been at odds essentially since she started as supervisor in 2009. The two sides have been locked in endless lawsuits and frequently yell at one another during meetings.

Moore is seeking re-election. Huntley Trustee Pam Fender and attorney Martin Waitzman are competing for her seat.

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