Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has launched a probe of a troubled $55 million anti-violence program Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn put in place in 2010 amid a tough election battle.
A grand jury issued a subpoena seeking documents related to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative Program, which funneled money to various community groups in what Quinn billed as an effort to target crime in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
Republican critics contend the program was a slush fund designed to shore up support for Quinn in heavily Democratic Cook County, while a recent scathing state audit found the initiative was “hastily implemented” and failed to track how taxpayer dollars were spent.
Alvarez sought documents pertaining to the names and identities of those who received grants under the program, as well as copies of all payment invoices and related audits and compliance reports.
* The Sun-Times broke the story and shares what may be the most important part of the grand jury probe…
The request was issued to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on March 19 and sought records tied to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — including those for the Chicago Area Project, a program tied to the husband of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
The Sun-Times previously reported that almost seven percent of the $2.1 million in funds given to the Chicago Area Project meant to combat crime in West Garfield Park went to Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III.
Actually, the state’s attorney went out of her way to point in Brown’s and Cook’s direction…
Correspondence from Alvarez’s office asked for “names and identities of all grantees participating in the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, including, but not limited to Chicago Area Project.”
* From that earlier Sun-Times story…
In 2011 and 2012, the West Side [Garfield Park] 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. […]
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.