Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband has been hit with a federal subpoena asking him to appear before a grand jury as part of an investigation into a state anti-violence program.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told the Chicago Sun-Times that the subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield is directed at Benton Cook III.
It’s a sign that federal authorities, who already have requested documents from two state agencies regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, are taking a closer look at Cook’s role in receiving grant money from the program. […]
Cook was paid more than $146,000 in salary and fringe benefits from Neighborhood Recovery Initiative grant funds, accounting for 7 percent of the total $2.1 state allotment to combat violence in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. Cook oversaw several subcontractors, including his own non-profit, which took in more than $3,300 in anti-violence grant money. The Sun-Times has previously reported that Cook is a felon, raising questions over how he qualified to oversee money in the program.
* Cook has hired Ed Genson as his attorney. Genson is a legendary criminal defense attorney and recently defended his client to the Sun-Times…
An attorney hired by Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband Benton Cook III, said his client has unfairly become the “fall guy” for a troubled state anti-violence program that’s been the subject of a series of investigations.
“If there were things that went wrong with regards to that program, neither he nor she had involvement,” Genson told Early & Often, speaking on behalf of Brown and her husband. “He was just a salaried worker who did his job.” […]
“He’s really the fall guy for this because of his relationship” to Brown, Genson said.
* Meanwhile, this is from the website of Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown’s husband Benton Cook…
Dr. Cook has conducted anxiety reduction and stress management groups at multiple community venues. He has taught in the Psychology and Management Departments and is an experienced meeting facilitator and focus-group leader. He has 25 years of management and administrative experience.
Dr. Cook earned his Doctor of Psychology and Masters Degree. He’s completed internships in clinical and counseling psychology. His Master’s focused on Management and Organizational Behavior. His psychology training and internship institutions are accredited by the American Psychological Association.
* So the Tribune asked the state whether Cook was licensed to practice psychology. He wasn’t and the state sent him a notice to appear before an administrative law judge on June 16. Oops…
The civil complaint by state regulators cites Cook’s online description. Those claims “constitute the unlicensed practice of a clinical psychologist,” which carries a fine of up to $10,000 per violation, the complaint states. The aim is to get Cook to stop representing himself as a clinical psychologist, said Susan Hofer, spokeswoman for the regulatory department.
The Chicago Area Project recently hired Rick Jasculca, a high-profile communications consultant, to answer questions about the state grant. In an email on behalf of the group’s executive director, David Whittaker, Jasculca said Cook told officials that he was married to Brown before they hired him and they “did not find that relevant.”
Jasculca wrote that Cook was hired because of his “seemingly relevant academic achievement, breadth of experience and deep involvement in the community.”
“Cook’s work and credentials were reviewed, and he was interviewed by CAP management,” Jasculca added. “In hindsight, it is clear that we should have used a more robust process to vet his credentials and background.”
* In other news…
A prosecutor who helped convict Canadian media mogul Conrad Black and other high-profile figures is the new head of the criminal division at Chicago’s U.S. attorney’s office.
The office announced Julie B. Porter’s appointment Tuesday.
The announcement comes as the new U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, Zachary Fardon, makes various structural changes. He has faced pressure to find more ways his office can help stem street-level violence in Chicago.
Ed Genson defended Conrad Black, by the way. And Porter helped prosecute Bill Cellini.