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County grand jury probing Dorothy Brown and her husband over land deal

Friday, May 9, 2014

* Tribune

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 investigation of the land deal comes as State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office also is looking at money Cook received as part of a controversial state anti-violence program that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn launched in fall 2010 as he was locked in a close election campaign. County prosecutors have issued subpoenas seeking documents related to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and specifically requested information about the agency that hired Cook. […]

Musa Tadros, the owner of south suburban Frankfort-based Crown Commercial Real Estate and Development, told the Tribune that he testified before a grand jury in January or February about the land deal.

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.

* Meanwhile, from the Sun-Times

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.

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.

As I told subscribers earlier this week, that decision about CAP’s funding came directly from Quinn’s office. The vote was most likely a mere formality, and it doesn’t look like Brown’s husband got much, if any, benefit from it.

* But that didn’t stop the governor’s office from once again throwing Brown under the bus

“If that’s the case, it’s unacceptable,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said of her vote. “Potential and actual conflicts of interest should always be disclosed by public officials and their designees. They should recuse themselves from decision-making on any matter involving a member of their family.

“The governor’s office has asked the authority’s chairman to look into this matter and act appropriately to address any conflict-of-interest issues,” Anderson said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


26 Comments
  1. - Walker - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:25 am:

    As I thought, the Quinn-related piece in the focus on Brown, is miniscule.

    A lot of strange real estate deals surround families of politicians at all levels. Very popular among high officials on the GOP side as well, historically. A clever way to enrich, behind legal fogs.


  2. - Jose Abreu's next homer - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:32 am:

    She’s gotta make up for the money she’s losing out on since she can’t make her employees pay her cash for her birthday any more. Real estate was the next best option.


  3. - wordslinger - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:35 am:

    Real estate scams have long been a staple of corrupt politicians, everywhere.

    Buy at a ridiculously low price from one supporter, sell some time later to another supporter at a miraculously high price.


  4. - Da Moat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:44 am:

    Like Obama/Rezco?


  5. - Walker - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:45 am:

    ===Buy at a ridiculously low price from one supporter, sell some time later to another supporter at a miraculously high price.===

    Works with politicians’ ties to hedge funders as well. You can always claim the pol was especially genius in investment choices.

    Where there’s a will, and lack of character, there is always a way.


  6. - Jim'e' - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:47 am:

    Gosh, I wish she would spend as much time on bringing her office into the 21st century than trying to make a buck on the side. No where else are court records kept on paper; now that criminal.


  7. - wordslinger - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    –Like Obama/Rezco?–

    Someone heard Pavlov’s bell.

    Yeah, it’s just like that, except for the part where Obama didn’t buy from Rezko and he hasn’t sold. Except for those two minor points, exactly the same.


  8. - VanillaMan - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:00 am:

    When you get dirty money, it has to be laundered.


  9. - downtownie brownie - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    Show me the jeans day money! Never found the $ and they let her walk. Apparently we only care when the damage is in the millions and its too late to recover.Instead were left with a courthouse full of her cronies a more violent city and hardworking taxpayer dollars squandered. She needs to go,quickly…


  10. - Upon Further Review - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:03 am:

    If nothing else, Quinn’s trouble program is shedding some light on the corrupt culture that has been in place since Dorothy Brown took over in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. It is one of the most inefficient offices in Cook County government and it is loaded with employees who seem to idle most of the time.


  11. - Because I said so... - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    I really hope a fairly strong candidate runs against her.


  12. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    I suspect no one involved at all with the Cook County legal system will shed a tear if she goes down. Unremarkable, ineffective tenure as court clerk. Ask any lawyer how antiquated the clerk’s office and related systems are. They still don’t have electronic case file access and electronic filing across the board while the Feds have had it for many years.

    I was in court on Wednesday. While in federal court, orders at all hearings are issued by the court electronically and e-mailed to you, in Cook County circuit court they are still done the old-fashioned way — drafted by the lawyers, not the judge or their staff, and handwritten USING CARBON PAPER to make copies. Yes, one of the last bastions of carbon paper.


  13. - dupage dan - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:54 am:

    Hey, RB, the carbon paper lobby is stronger than you think. Be careful, be very, very careful


  14. - Oswego Willy - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    Quinn would “like” (hate how callous that sounds, I feel ‘icky’) to be able to put a great deal of the taint to Dorothy Brown if he can. They are pushing it out there, that is beyond obvious.

    If its not “over” for Dorothy Brown, someone needs to tell her it’s more of the beginning of the end than anything else positive.

    This could very well lead to her own name on a Circuit Court docket, produced by an “acting clerk”.

    I hate speculation on criminal investigations, say it often, but Grand Juries don’t meet to discuss table cloths.


  15. - Da Moat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    That would be “Clerk” Brown. Employees have been reprimanded.


  16. - northshorecynic - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    the cover up is always worse than the crime.

    this is deja vu all over again and again and again.

    It will save Rauner millions of dollars in campaign expense.


  17. - Da Moat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    Diane Shapiro was a good candidate.


  18. - Da Moat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    I do not recall Clerk Brown wearing jeans herself on jeans day.


  19. - Knome Sane - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    Should the distinguished Clerk of the Circuit Court find herself on the wrong side of steel bars, will she require her new neighbors to call her “The Honorable” Inmate Number 877954789?


  20. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:27 am:

    If the comments on the blog are any reflection, looks like I might have been wrong, and Quinn’s effort to blame the $55 million NRI debacle on Brown will succeed, although Brown and her husband received roughly one-quarter of one percent of that money.

    The Sun-Times editorial board is apparently pretty isolated in its view that the buck stops at the Governor’s office for oversight of The governor’s initiatives.

    Kudos, Team Quinn. I misunderestimated you, but I can admit when I am wrong.


  21. - Anyone Remember - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    It’s not just Illinois & politicians & land sales.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/missouri-history-museum-s-purchase-of-ex-mayor-s-st/article_4e4a5031-79e0-5f0e-9ca8-2913f91cb956.html


  22. - Ravenswood Right Winger - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    does Tony Peraica want to run again county-wide?


  23. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    Also, most politicians or politicians’ spouses with half a brain don’t fall for the old “Here, have a free building!” trick. Takes a special sort of dopeyness and hubris to end up in that kind of position.


  24. - Da Moat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Peracia. Yes, the answer.


  25. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    One thing does confuse me: what exactly is the crime that Brown is accused of? Violating the Gift Ban Act?


  26. - Just The Way It Is One - Friday, May 9, 14 @ 4:21 pm:

    OH boy–and “aWAAAAAAAAY we GOOOOOO,” as the famous Jackie Gleason used to blurt out!!

    Well, we’ll see what comes of this in due time, but Dorothy ‘n Hubby surely can’t be all that excited about THIS year’s Mother’s Day Greeting–News of the Grand Jury convening–let alone what it could lead to…! And maybe now, one, inevitable result is that Cook County’ll be lookin’ for a New Clerk of its’ Court System sometime in the not too distant future…?

    One thing it does as well is to make Gov. Quinn appear less culpable, as the inquiry may be honing in now, specifically, on some of the MAIN Culprits who TRUly helped to malign the good faith intent of the Anti-Violence program way back in 2010…!


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