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 of 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 is a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th) and currently a partner in the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg. Boykin says he was not aware of his multiple homestead exemptions until recently. Once he learned of the issue Boykin says that he quickly took steps to correct the mistake that saved him thousands of dollars on his property taxes.

On Feb. 6, 2014 Boykin faxed both the Will County and Cook County Assessors offices asking that the homestead exemption that he had claimed on his two properties be cancelled.

“That was brought to my attention a couple of days ago,” Boykin said. “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.”

According to Boykin, 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 in Oak Park that he purchased in 2005. Boykin says he has rented out the Harvey Avenue condominium since he moved to the Ridgeland 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,” he said, adding 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.

Boykin’s opponents in the March Democratic primary, however, don’t buy his explanation.

“We’re talking about almost two years of him having a homeowner’s exemption” said Ron Lawless an Oak Park resident who’s currently running in the 1st District County Board race. “The only reason he is addressing this issue is that he got caught.”

Lawless said claiming multiple homestead exemptions reflects poorly on Boykin no matter what the explanation.

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.

“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 been told, he bought a place 40 days before he filed his petitions,” Sercye said.

But Boykin insists he never lived in Bolingbrook and made an honest mistake that he is now correcting.

“I’m not a real estate lawyer. It’s an oversight. I didn’t know,” he said. “I’ll pay whatever I have to. I’m not worried about that. I’ll do whatever I need to make it right.”

Preckwinkle, Emanuel for Sercye

     Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have endorsed Austin resident Blake Sercye in his run for the 1st District Cook County board. The endorsements came during a Feb. 18, press conference.

      It is unusual for either Preckwinkle or Emanuel to endorse in a Democratic primary and for the two rivals to make a joint endorsement. Meanwhile, 1st District candidate Richard Boykin received endorsements from three prominent black ministers. Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church has backed Boykin, who also received the backing of Pastor Marvin Wiley of Rock of Ages Baptist Church and Bishop Claude Porter of Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action.