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.