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More trouble for Dorothy Brown’s husband in state grant probe

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

* Sun-Times

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.

* More

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


15 Comments
  1. - Weltschmerz - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 9:57 am:

    How’d Ed work out for Conrad? He’s usually good for a reduction in sentence after the feds have chalked up another one.


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 9:58 am:

    Cook appears to be a long-time and prolific con man.

    He’s got a lot of heat from two grand juries, but he can’t wear the jacket for the all the deficiencies outlined in the auditor general’s report.


  3. - Walker - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:08 am:

    He’s clearly the first fall guy in the greater scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean he’s free and clear.


  4. - Upon Further Review - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:10 am:

    Even money that Benton Cook is unknown to any European universities? Someday, he will be offered a post at Chicago State.


  5. - MrJM - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    I worry that flimflam credentials like Benton Cooks’ will cast undue doubt on legitimate degrees like my Doctor of Space and Time certificate.

    – MrJM


  6. - LincolnLounger - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    It’s going to take a whole lot of Blue Jeans Fund “contributions” for Dot to pay Ed’s bill!


  7. - Responsa - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    ==On his website, Cook does not detail his academic credentials or the specific places he has practiced psychology, though he does list the institutions where his stepdaughter received her degrees. On a resume Cook submitted to the Chicago Area Project when it hired him for the state grant program, Cook lists “doctorial studies in clinical psychology” at Jacksonville Theological Seminary in Florida and a master’s of humanities in psychological counseling and a bachelor’s degree in religion and biblical studies from Aspen Theological Seminary in Aurora, Colo.

    Neither establishment is on a current list of institutions accredited by the American Psychological Association, the nation’s largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology. Officials at both educational institutions could not be reached Tuesday.==
    Oof.


  8. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    Noticed his bio and Clerk Brown’s online bio have their daughter’s name and educational credentials on them. Anyone else find that really weird? What does that have to do with anything?


  9. - A guy... - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    Domino 1. Dr. Cook.


  10. - dupage dan - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    It appears this fraud was hiding in plain sight. How’d he stay under the radar for so long? Who’s his clout, Clerk Brown? Really? On the other hand, should I be surprised?


  11. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    Unless a job description has academic requirements, I don’t think few if any employers verify degrees.

    Jasculca has his work cut out for him, but at least there is a seasoned hand at the till.


  12. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    Mr. Cook is the face and the persona of the Auditor General’s report, but in no way is Mr. Cook the entire story, or a final stop on the “Bus Tour “.

    If anything, Mr. Cook needs to be, for his own good(?), the “Ralph Cramdem” of the bus(?)


  13. - Sue - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    Targets of USA grand jury subpoenas either take the fifth or cut a deal before making an appearance- if in fact Cook is a target there is no way he gives testimony without spilling the beans subject to a proffer agreement


  14. - A guy... - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    ===Jasculca has his work cut out for him, but at least there is a seasoned hand at the till.====

    This hire is the first smart move in the whole mess. Clearly, he’s been hired to play “defense”. There will be no touchdowns or ball spiking here.


  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, May 14, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    @A guy -

    Last week I recommended here that they hire outside counsel — Dennis Culloton was the first to come to mind — but Rick seems to be on message.

    I do find it ironic…I think the story has been featured prominently on the Sun-Times political site sponsored by Jasculca-Terman.


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