Dorothy A. Brown
|Dorothy A. Brown|
|Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County|
December 1, 2000
|Preceded by||Aurelia Pucinski|
September 4, 1953 |
|Spouse(s)||Benton Cook (m. 2009)|
|Alma mater||Southern University (B.S.)
DePaul University (M.B.A.)
Chicago-Kent College of Law (J.D.)
|Profession||Certified Public Accountant|
Early life, family, and education
Brown grew up in Minden, Louisiana, one of eight children. Her father worked in the laundry room of the Louisiana Army Ammunitions Plant near Minden. He also owned a cotton farm in Athens, Louisiana, where Brown and her seven siblings helped him pick and chop cotton. Brown's mother worked as a cook and a domestic.
At Webster High School, Brown was captain of the girl's varsity basketball team, and graduated in the top ten percent of her class. Brown entered college in 1971 at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated Magna cum Laude from Southern University in 1975. In 1977, Brown received her license as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In 1981, she received her Master in Business Administration (MBA) with honors from DePaul University in Chicago. In 1996, Brown received her law degree with honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Brown worked for Arthur Andersen and Commonwealth Edison as a certified public accountant. She also helped to start a minority public accounting firm. From 1991 to 2000, Brown was employed as the General Auditor for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County (2000–present)
Brown was elected as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, in 2000, and has been reelected to three additional terms in office by overwhelming margins of votes. As the official keeper of recorders for all judicial matters brought into one of the largest unified court systems in the world, Brown is responsible for managing an annual operating budget of more than $100 million and has a workforce of over 1,800 employees. The Clerk's office was described as "a 2,300-employee office, one of the last true bastions of political patronage in Illinois" by the Chicago Sun-Times in 2014.
Major projects and services developed under Brown’s leadership include: Electronic filing (e-filing), a Clerk of the Circuit Court mobile app: “Court Clerk Mobile Connect,” an Online Traffic Ticket Payment System, an Electronic Tickets (eTickets) system, Mortgage Surplus Search, SmartForms (Online Order of Protection service), Smart Kiosks (court information terminals), and IDMS (Imaging Document Management System). All of these “Green Court”/E-Court initiatives improve accuracy, save time for court users, cut costs for the court system, and conserve energy.
Brown accepted cash gifts on her birthday and Christmas from her employees, a practice that several former employees described as being an unspoken requirement of their jobs. Brown later announced that she would no longer accept the gifts after questions arose regarding how she claimed the items on her tax returns.
In January 2010, the Inspector General of Cook County investigated Brown's "Jeans Day" program, in which Clerk's office employees could donate cash to the Jeans Day fund and wear casual clothing to work on a Friday. The Jeans Day fund, which grew to over $300,000, was supposed to be used to fund employee morale activities and charities. The Inspector General's report documented expenditures unrelated to charitable causes, including Chicago Bulls and Six Flags Great America tickets and employee parking reimbursements. The Inspector General's report cleared Brown's office of wrongdoing, but advised Brown provide better controls. Brown discontinued Jeans Day in August 2010.
In May 2006, Brown chaired the host committee for a fund raiser held in Chicago to support the re-election of Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, Louisiana. Helping organize the event was information technology contractor Mark St. Pierre, who had worked contracts for both the city of New Orleans and Cook County government, and was a significant political donor to both Brown and Nagin. The event figured prominently in the indictment of Nagin on corruption charges on January 18, 2013. Brown was not charged.
A contributor to Brown's political campaigns gave a commercial property at the intersection of Pulaski, Ogden and Cermak Avenues on Chicago's southwest side to Brown's husband in June 2011. Two months later, the deed was transferred to The Sankofa Group, L. L. C., Brown and her husband's for-profit consulting firm, and in November 2011 The Sankofa Group sold the property for $100,000. The land deal is being investigated by the Cook County Inspector General and by a grand jury convened by prosecutors with the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
In 2012, during Brown's third re-election campaign, the Chicago Tribune editorial board declined to endorse any candidate, citing "Brown's years of failed assurances to modernize the obsolete, paper-choked office she heads."
In August 2015, the slating committee of the Cook County Democratic Party narrowly voted to endorse Brown for re-election to a fifth term in the March 2016 primary elections. In early October 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at Brown's home and seized her County-issued cell phone. Chicago attorney Ed Genson represented Brown. On October 23, 2015 the Cook County Democratic Party withdrew its endorsement of Brown, and endorsed Michelle A. Harris. In November 2015, an employee of the Clerk's office was charged in a federal indictment that alleged that he lied to a federal grand jury after he had been rehired by the Clerk's office weeks after lending $15,000 to a company controlled by Brown's husband; the employee pleaded not guilty. Brown has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
Both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune have declined to endorse Brown or her opponent in the 2016 campaign.
- Brown, Dorothy (January 3, 2015). "A Year of Achievements Roll into a New Year of More Innovations in the Clerk's Office". The Chicago Defender. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
- Brown, Dorothy (November 19, 2014). "eTickets remove some of the frustration of getting a traffic ticket". The Chicago Defender. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
- Felsenthal, Carol (21 December 2011). "Why Dorothy Brown Wants Another Term as Circuit Court Clerk". Chicago Magazine. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Sjostrom, Joseph (February 7, 1999). "Treasurer Candidate Brown To Address City Club Of Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- "Dorothy Brown running for mayor; Cook County Circuit Court clerk formally declares her candidacy". Chicago Tribune. September 1, 2006. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "Editorial Board Questionnaire". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- Dardick, Hal; Becker, Robert (December 23, 2009). "Dorothy Brown touts knowledge, experience; Tribune poll found her leading Cook County Board president's race". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- Korecki, Natasha (May 9, 2014). "Dorothy Brown: 'A reformer gone wrong.'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
- Office of Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown (June 2009). "Cook County is the Largest Court System to "Go Green" with E-Filing Pilot at No Cost to Taxpayers More than 1,000 Cook County Attorneys are Registered E-Filers". Tort Reporter (10). The Tort Litigation Committee of The Chicago Bar Association. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
- Office of Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown (April 4, 2014). "A mobile app for court info, anywhere, any time". Chicago Defender. Cloud Computing Magazine.
- "Cook County does full launch of online traffic system". The Chicago Defender. August 20, 2009.
- Podmolik, Mary Ellen (August 25, 2011). "Cook Co. reaching out to those due money after property foreclosure". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
- "Cook County: Foreclosure Fund Holds Millions In Unclaimed Taxpayer Money". Huffington Post. August 26, 2011.
- Campbell, Traci (December 18, 2009). "Cook County Circuit Court Imaging and Document Management System Goes Live!". Business Wire.
- Dardick, Hal (September 10, 2008). "Dorothy Brown birthday fete aims to fill campaign coffers; Court clerk employees are among organizers of Sept. 30 fundraising effort". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- Dardick, Hal (5 June 2009). "Dorothy Brown says she won't take cash from county employees". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Dardick, Hal (22 January 2010). "Brown provides records, tries to move past 'Jeans Day' flap in circuit clerk's office". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Byrne, John (26 August 2010). "Brown ends 'jeans days' after investigation's report". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Blanchard, Patrick. "Jeans Day Fundraiser Review" (PDF). Office of Inspector General, City of Chicago. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Clauss, Hunter (January 22, 2010). "Dorothy Brown Defends Jeans Day". WBEZ. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "No written policy for Brown's "Jeans Days"". ABC 7 Chicago. January 22, 2010. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- Mihalopoulos, Dan; Main, Frank (2013-01-20). "Clerk Dorothy Brown chaired fund-raiser cited in Nagin corruption case". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
- "Cook County Circuit Clerk tied to fundraiser named in corruption case". WGN-TV. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
- Hammer, David (2013-01-19). "IN DEPTH: Former N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin indicted on federal corruption charges". WWL-TV. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
- "Brown Event in Nagin Case". Chicago Sun-Times. January 21, 2013.
- "Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown flips free property for $100K". Fox 32 News. November 25, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
- "Dorothy's Deed, Done Dirt Cheap; Campaign donor gives Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown's husband a building worth $100,000. Why? And why didn't Brown disclose the freebie as apparently required?". Better Government Association. November 25, 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
- "Dorothy Brown, Feeling Heat; Inspector general launches investigation over land deal involving wealthy campaign donor giving $100,000 parcel to husband of Circuit Court clerk". Better Government Association. March 4, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
- Dardick, Hal (May 9, 2014). "Cook County circuit clerk's land deal probed; Brown, husband got parcel for free, sold it for tens of thousands in profit". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-05-18.
- Carlson, Erin (May 12, 2014). "Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown Under Investigation for Shady Land Deal; Brown and her husband are also tangled up in Gov. Quinn's troubled anti-violence program". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
- Crews, Julian (May 9, 2014). "Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown's land deal probed". WGN-TV. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
- Herguth, Robert; Rehkamp, Patrick; Placko, Dane (March 4, 2014). "Watchdog looks at land deal involving Dorothy Brown's husband". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-12-22.
- "Choices for Cook County". Chicago Tribune. October 22, 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
- Dardick, Hal (August 18, 2015). "Cook County Democrats fail to endorse in state's attorney race". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
The committee was able to make a recommendation for circuit court clerk, narrowly backing Dorothy Brown in her bid for re-election after calling 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins away from a lunch break and back into the room to put Brown over the top.
- Brown, Mark (August 19, 2015). "Cook County Dems stay neutral in U.S. Senate race". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
In a tight vote, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown was endorsed over lawyer Jacob Meister, a gay rights activist who vowed to stay in the race.
- Meisner, Jason; Dardick, Hal (October 15, 2015). "FBI seizes Dorothy Brown's cellphone in probe of land deal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
The FBI has seized the cellphone of Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown as part of an ongoing investigation into a 2011 land deal involving a longtime campaign contributor that netted Brown and her husband tens of thousands of dollars. Agents showed up at Brown's home last week armed with a search warrant for her phone, said attorney Edward Genson, who is representing Brown in the criminal investigation.
- Herguth, Robert; Fusco, Chris; Placko, Dane (October 15, 2015). "Hiring, 'pay to play' focuses of Dorothy Brown probe". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
Those revelations come as federal agents visited Brown’s South Side house last week and seized her county-issued cellphone.
- Byrne, John (October 23, 2015). "Clerk Brown vows to stay in race after Cook County Democrats yank backing". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
On Friday, Democratic leaders took away Brown's endorsement for an office that controls nearly 1,800 jobs and supported Ald. Michelle Harris, a loyal Democratic soldier who came up through the ranks of the vaunted 8th Ward organization once headed by the late John Stroger.
- Fusco, Chris; Herguth, Robert; Rehkamp, Patrick; Placko, Dane (October 23, 2015). "Dems drop support for Dorothy Brown, endorse Ald. Michelle Harris". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
Cook County Democratic Party leaders on Friday withdrew their endorsement of Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown in the March 15 primary amid a federal corruption investigation, instead throwing their support to a newly announced candidate, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).
- "Cook County Democratic Party withdraws endorsement of Court Clerk Dorothy Brown". The Columbia Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-11-23.
- Meisner, Jason (November 20, 2015). "Feds disclose probe of Dorothy Brown's office with indictment". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
An employee in Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown's office has been indicted, the first public confirmation that her office is under investigation over the possible "purchasing" of jobs and promotions. The one-count indictment of Sivasubramani Rajaram comes weeks after the FBI seized Brown's cellphone as part of the ongoing probe. The charge, made public Friday, alleges that Rajaram was rehired by Brown's office in September 2014, just weeks after he purportedly lent $15,000 to a company controlled by Brown's husband, Benton Cook III.
- Fusco, Chris; Herguth, Robert; Rehkamp, Patrick (November 20, 2015). "Feds charge worker of Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy Brown". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
A lower-level employee of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown has been charged with lying to a federal grand jury “investigating the purchasing of jobs and promotions” in the clerk’s office — including a lie about whether he had spoken to Brown after he was rehired. Sivasubramani Rajaram, 48, of Glenview, was rehired by Brown after he allegedly loaned $15,000 to Goat Masters Corporation, a company whose president was Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III, according to the indictment.
- Briscoe, Tony (December 3, 2015). "County clerk office worker pleads not guilty to lying in federal investigation". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
An employee in Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown's office pleaded not guilty Thursday to a charge of lying to a federal grand jury.