Chief Judge Evans selects SEC prosecutor as Board of Review Commissioner
Released on 5/9/2012 11:25:29 AM


Pursuant to his statutory authority provided under 35 ILCS 200/5-5, Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today appointed Michael M. Cabonargi, an award-winning senior attorney and prosecutor with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Chicago, to serve as the Commissioner from District Number Two on the Cook County Board of Review.

"I have selected Michael Cabonargi because he is a highly qualified attorney whose work at the SEC reviewing and evaluating complicated financial transactions intersects, on a broader level, with the type of work performed at the Board of Review," said Chief Judge Evans. "Additionally, prior to his work with the SEC, Mr. Cabonargi worked with progressive public servants including Senator Paul Simon, Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. District Court Judge William Hibbler, as well as with well known law firms in Cook County, including Bell, Boyd and Lloyd, LLC and Gardner Carton and Douglas LLP."

Chief Judge Evans also said that another point in Mr. Cabonargi's favor was his pledge to hire more attorneys at the Board, especially to serve as his deputy commissioner. He noted Mr. Cabonargi advised him that he is considering another leading candidate for the position of Commissioner, Aaron R. Bilton, an assistant state's attorney in the Cook County State's Attorney's Real Estate Tax unit, to serve as his deputy commissioner/chief of staff. Cabonargi said he learned of Mr. Bilton's exceptional credentials from his Board of Review application that was posted on the court's web site.

"Mr. Cabonargi background and management approach demonstrated to me that he has the practical wisdom, experience and vision to be a fair and effective commissioner," said Chief Judge Evans. "I have the utmost confidence in him."

Chief Judge Evans continued, "Mr. Cabonargi and Mr. Bilton were the two professionals who headed my final list from the field of 11 excellent candidates. Mr. Bilton has represented the interests both of government and taxpayers and is well versed in the rules, regulations and procedures of the Board. With his considerable knowledge of both sides of the process, he is exceptionally qualified to assist Mr. Cabonargi in bringing a fresh approach to the Board.

"I therefore was delighted when, in his final interview, Mr. Cabonargi indicated his interest in asking Mr. Bilton to serve as his deputy," Chief Judge Evans added.

Chief Judge Evans will administer the oath of office to Mr. Cabonagi at a later date. State statute provides Mr. Cabonargi shall serve the balance of the term which ends December 3, 2012.

The appointment of Cabonargi fills the vacancy created when former Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios became Cook County Assessor in December 2010.

The statute required that the Chief Judge appoint a commissioner to fill a vacancy on the Board who meets the following requirements: that person must have resided in the Board of Review District Number 2 for at least two years before the date of appointment, must be from the same political party as the district's immediate predecessor, and must not hold any other lucrative public office or public employment while serving as a commissioner.

The Cook County Board of Review, formerly the Board of Appeals, consists of three members elected from individual districts. The Board is a quasi-judicial body that is charged with fairly and impartially reviewing the assessments of all property to the extent authorized by the Property Tax Code, correcting all assessments which should be corrected. It is empowered to raise, lower, and or direct the Cook County Assessor to change, correct, alter, or modify assessments as justice may require, and to do all acts necessary within the authority provided by the Code to procure a full, fair and a full, fair and impartial assessment of all property.

Biographical information on Mr. Cabonargi and Mr. Bilton is attached. Their original applications, including statements of qualifications, can be found at www.cookcountycourt.org.

Biographical Information for Michael M. Cabonargi

Michael M. Cabonargi served as a senior attorney and prosecutor in the Division of Enforcement in the Chicago Regional Office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 2005 to the present. He investigated possible violations of the federal securities laws and prosecuted the Commission's civil suits in the federal courts as well as its administrative proceedings. He also investigated and litigated cases involving insider trading, offering fraud, pay-to-play, and pyramid/Ponzi schemes. In 2008, he received the SEC Director's Award for Excellence for combating financial fraud targeting seniors and the Chairman's Award in 2007 for bringing the largest private offering fraud case filed by the Commission in the amount of $2.8 billion. (SEC v. Lance Poulsen et al.)

Prior to joining the SEC, Mr. Cabonargi was an attorney with Bell, Boyd and Lloyd, LLC, Chicago from 2005 to 2004, with a concentration in complex commercial and regulatory litigation, and with Gardner Carton and Douglas LLP, Chicago from 2004 to 2002, with a concentration in complex commercial litigation. While with Bell, Boyd and Lloyd, LLC, he was appointed a Special Assistant State's Attorney to represent the Cook County Sheriff's Department in defense of claims of police misconduct. As an attorney with Gardner Carton and Douglas LLP, he represented the City of Chicago in the federal and state litigation arising out of the closing of Meigs Field.

From 2002 to 2000, Cabonargi served as law clerk to United States District Court Judge William J. Hibbler in Chicago. During his clerkship, he initiated and helped to establish the court's first help desk for pro se (self-represented) litigants for which he received the Award for Excellence in Public Interest Service from the Federal Bar Association and the U.S. District Court in 2005. Prior to that, he worked as a staff assistant in the Chicago office of United States Senator Richard J. Durbin in 1997, and from 1997 to 1993, he served as a staff assistant and economic development advisor in the Chicago office of United States Senator Paul Simon.

Mr. Cabonargi received his J.D. in 2000 from the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign and a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from Miami University in Ohio in 1993.

Mr. Cabonargi is a resident of Chicago's Logan Square community. Mr. Cabonargi's community service includes serving as a member of the Local School Council for Brentano Elementary School in Chicago from 2006 to 2008 and as a member of the 35th Ward's Zoning Advisory Committee from 2007 to 2009. He also served on the Illinois Comptroller's Ethics Commission from 2003 to 2005.

Biographical Information for Aaron R. Bilton

Aaron R. Bilton has spent his entire legal career of more than 13 years in the real estate taxation field. From 2004 to the present, he has worked as an assistant state's attorney assigned to the Real Estate Tax Unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He has represented the Board of Review before both the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board and the Circuit Court of Cook County. He has handled more than 1,000 specific objection lawsuits for tax years 1997 through 2008. Additionally, he has represented the Treasurer, the Assessor and the Clerk of Cook County in tax injunction cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Prior to becoming an assistant state's attorney, Mr. Bilton was an associate with Flanagan׀Bilton from October 1997 to April 2004, and a paralegal with the firm for one year prior to that. He was responsible for handling more than 1,000 specific objection lawsuits in the Circuit Court of Cook County for tax years 1992 through 2000. He also appeared before the Boards of Review for Cook, Kankakee, Kane and McHenry counties.

Mr. Bilton is a resident of Chicago's East Village community. He received his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and his B.A in Political Science and his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Illinois in 1994.