The [Thursday] Papers
Here we go again.
To the Beachvault:
January 26, 2010: Who Is Dorothy Brown?
March 19, 2012: Dorothy Brown Outraged By E-Filing Pledge She Pretends She Didn't Know About.
October 21, 2007: County Job Fair.
March 25, 2008: Clerk Perk.
October 9, 2009: Dorothy Brown's Ethics For Dummies.
November 30, 2009: Double Agent Dorothy Brown.
December 9, 2009: Dorothy Brown's Mirror Petitions.
December 23, 2009: The Pearl of Illinois.
January 21, 2010: County Clown.
February 2, 2010: Sleaze Factor 8.
"An enigma wrapped in a mystery stuffed in an envelope of cash that no one can account for."
March 20, 2012: Beachwood Primary Guide 2012.
"For such a churchie, Dorothy Brown is a noted ethical disaster. Worse, she's terrible at her job. Just another "independent" who flamed out . . . That might also describe Munoz, who greased his kid into Whitney Young . . . Then again, it's Brown who thinks it's right for innocent people to pay for the processing of their unjustified arrest."
March 21, 2012: Primary Points.
"'Several Cook County voters have received some very nasty robocalls over the past day or so,' Rich Miller reports on his Capitol Fax Blog. 'A large number of Cook County pols have been slammed by these robocalls, and the one thing they may have in common is that they all are opponents of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown.'
"Miller reports that one robocall also attacked Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson. Click through for the audio.
"Brown won re-election over Ald. Rick Munoz - there is no Republican opponent - despite a raft of stories over the years and in recent week about her sheer ineptitude and total lack of an ethical compass. Those who work in the court system - lawyers, for example - have nothing but horror stories to tell about the terrible state of affairs there.
"That's why my favorite quote of the day might be this one from her campaign manager, Pete Dagher: 'This means that Dorothy Brown can continue the reform that she started 11 years ago.'"
November 8, 2012: 1,220,896.
That's how many votes Dorothy Brown got on her way to winning re-election.
March 10, 2014: Cooking With Dorothy.
"West Garfield Park ranks in the top 20 most violent areas on the city map," the Sun-Times reports.
"In 2011 and 2012, the West Side neighborhood got more than $2.1 million from Gov. Pat Quinn's administration through his Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program, state records show.
"But instead of all that public money going toward quelling the shooting and other violence there, a substantial chunk of it - almost 7 percent - appears to have gone into the pocket of the husband of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
"Benton Cook, Brown's spouse, was paid more than $146,401 in salary and fringe benefits from state grant funds to serve as the program coordinator with the Chicago Area Project, the agency the Quinn administration put in charge of doling out anti-violence funding to West Garfield Park, state records show."
That seems like a lot for a program that should've been bent on delivering as much of that money to the problem - instead of administrators - as possible. But maybe Cook has an explanation.
"While Cook didn't deny receiving the anti-violence grant money, he told the Sun-Times on Sunday he did not remember exactly how much he banked working for the Chicago Area Project. Cook insisted he didn't make anywhere close to that kind of money.
"It wasn't nearly $145,000," Cook said, telling a reporter at his front door to "check your records."
Done and done.
"State records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show that in 2011 Cook received $67,526 in salary and fringe benefits. Those documents, submitted to the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, even bear Cook's own signature attesting to his salary and benefits as well as five other Chicago Area Project workers paid with Neighborhood Recovery Initiative funds.
"In 2012, the organization told the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Cook received $78,875 in salary and fringe benefits. State records spelling out that year's totals for Cook and three other employees did not have Cook's endorsement, as was the case in 2011, but they bore the signature of Howard Lathan, the Chicago Area Project's associate executive director."
I am a little confused. Do those totals include the salaries of Cook and the five (and then three) other employees?
I'd also like to know how Cook got the gig - did he have experience in this area? And what did Cook deliver exactly in this position?
I'm sure neither answer is satisfying - the whole thing stinks.
"Lathan did not return multiple messages for him left at the organization's office . . . The Chicago Area Project, which itself got $1.1 million through the program during that two-year window, did not respond to repeated messages left at its offices Friday. The Quinn administration also did not respond to questions about Cook's involvement in the anti-violence program."
Seems no one wants to talk about Cook. Perhaps this is why:
"On Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported [link mine] how the program employed two gang members on the South Side, who were paid $8.50 an hour to hand out anti-violence literature. One of those teens is now dead, shot in the head with a shotgun, and his colleague is charged with the youth's murder."
Meanwhile . . .
"A Brown aide would not facilitate an interview with her Friday about her husband's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative involvement nor offer any details about what exactly he did with the program to merit a six-figure income.
"This has nothing to do with the clerk's office," Brown spokeswoman Jalyne Strong-Shaw told the Chicago Sun-Times.
"Beyond his pay and benefits, a not-for-profit corporation he founded received another $3,333 in West Garfield Park's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative allotment. That entity, Dream Catchers Community Development Corp., is based in the home Cook shares with his wife."
"Separately, Cook is at the center of a newly opened investigation by Cook County's inspector general into a June 2011 deal in which he was given land on the South Side for free by a campaign donor to his wife.
"A Better Government Association/Fox 32 investigation published in the Sun-Times found that Cook, once he'd obtained the land, added his wife's name to the property's deed, conveyed it to a corporation they both own, then sold it for $100,000. Brown never disclosed the transaction on her county economic interest statement."
Frankly, I'm surprised Brown has lasted this long. She's long been atop our leaderboard of county officials most likely to be indicted.
May 6, 2014: Dream Catcher.
"Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown had a direct managerial role in a not-for-profit group that got an anti-violence grant from Gov. Pat Quinn's now-disbanded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, state records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show," the paper reports.
That sounds about right.
Next city/county officeholder besides Berrios likely to be indicted in descending order: Dorothy Brown, Karen Yarbrough, Stanley Moore, Maria Pappas.
Back to the Sun-Times:
"The group, Dream Catchers Community Development Corp., was founded by Brown's husband, Benton Cook III. It was asked to return unexpended grant money after having its contract terminated in 2011 by Chicago Area Project, a larger not-for-profit that had been overseeing organizations that had received money through the Quinn anti-violence initiative.
"Dream Catchers was supposed to be paid as much as $10,000 by Chicago Area Project to distribute anti-violence literature between February 2011 and November 2011.
"The group initially was awarded $3,333 of the $10,000. But Chicago Area Project ended the deal after only a few months, in May 2011, saying it learned of the potential conflict of interest posed by Cook also being paid tens of thousands of dollars by Chicago Area Project to oversee other Neighborhood Recovery Initiative programs.
"On March 26, 2012, Chicago Area Project asked for $1,797 in unexpended state grant money to be returned from Cook's organization. Dream Catchers complied in early April of that year."
So it's not a lot of money, but it is pretty greasy.
The Brown link?
A February 2012 "closeout" report turned over to the now-disbanded Illinois Violence Prevention Authority bears Brown's signature, listing her as Dream Catchers' "fiscal manager."
Also noting: Dorothy Brown Issues Press Release On Official Letterhead Slamming Sun-Times For Exposing Huge Raises To Five Favorites.
May 9, 2014: Downbound Dorothy Brown.
"Not long after taking over the budget committee of a state agency, Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown voted by proxy to channel $5 million to a West Side nonprofit to help continue funding Gov. Pat Quinn's now-disbanded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative," Dave McKinney reports for the Sun-Times.
"That vote by Brown came at the same time the nonprofit, Chicago Area Project, employed her husband, Benton Cook III, to oversee millions of dollars in Neighborhood Recovery Initiative programming. The organization subsidized his paycheck with state anti-violence grant money.
"It's not clear whether any of the grant funds Brown authorized for Chicago Area Project's use in September 2012 trickled into Cook's paycheck since the nonprofit says he left its payroll in October of that year.
"But her decision to proceed with a vote on the matter instead of abstaining sparked criticism Thursday from Gov. Pat Quinn's office and a call from the top House Republican that she resign her chairmanship of the Criminal Justice Information Authority's budget committee, through which state anti-violence grants are disbursed."
What's odd about Brown's maneuver is that her vote wasn't even necessary; the funding to CAP was approved unanimously. That's what they call in sports an unforced error.
Meanwhile, the Tribune reports:
"Cook County prosecutors are investigating a land deal that netted Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and her husband tens of thousands of dollars with no money down, the Tribune has learned.
"Brown's husband, Benton Cook III, confirmed that a grand jury is probing the deal, which saw him get a North Lawndale building for free from a longtime campaign contributor to Brown.
"The court clerk quickly became a co-owner, and her company sold the parcel for $100,000 to a Frankfort real estate developer who'd long had his eye on it. The developer said Thursday that he testified before a grand jury earlier this year about how he came to acquire the land."
(The Trib notes that "The land deal was first reported in late November by WFLD-Ch. 32 news and the Better Government Association." See "Dorothy's Deed, Done Dirt Cheap.")
"It's becoming even more clear that Alvarez's probe of Gov. Quinn's anti-violence initiative is a lot more about Brown than it is about Quinn - at least, for now," Rich Miller writes today at his Capitol Fax blog.
That would help explain why Alvarez is proceeding on one track while the feds proceed on another; Brown is her territory and and an investigation focused on her doesn't muck up the larger probe into the NRI by the U.S. Attorney's Office out of Springfield.
(Cook County inspector general Patrick Blanchard is also reportedly looking into the Brown affair; a legislative panel is also looking into the now-defunct NRI.)
June 30, 2014: Being Brown's Benton.
"Before he was paid more than $146,000 for work on Gov. Pat Quinn's scandal-plagued anti-violence initiative, Benton Cook III says he spent four years as a 'media production director' for political candidates," the Sun-Times reports.
"His biggest client, as it turns out, was his wife, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, records show."
Not that there's anything wrong with that - except for the sneaking suspicion that Brown found a way to increase her household income by transferring fundraising dollars to a shady job for her husband, much in the same way that Jesse Jackson Jr. paid his wife monthly consulting fees.
Beyond that, Cook comes off essentially as a scammer in this article.
With an election coming in the spring, a lot of folks this morning asking, "Gee, how much does that clerk's job pay again?"
The platform of every candidate will be easy: Modernize the court's ancient computer system and rid the office of corruption - the same platform Brown ran on.
Jacob Meister has already been running.
Also, for those who believe that these things run in threes - and, yes, neither Dorothy Brown nor her husband has been charged with a crime yet, but c'mon - the good ol' wrestling coach Denny Hastert completes the trifecta.
And don't forget: Sandi Jackson takes the baton from her husband this month.
Speaking Of Barbara Byrd-Bribery . . .
Lion Down On The Job
"Boy that's a crappy looking team they got over there in the mitten," our very own Carl Mohrbacher writes in The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report.
Always Absent Alshon
"The biggest fantasy bust among WRs this season," our very own Dan O'Shea writes in Fantasy Fix.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Au jus.
Posted on October 15, 2015