By Patrick Rehkamp, Andrew Schroedter and Dane Placko
The executive committee of the Cook County Democratic Party didn’t take a stand Wednesday on whether Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s endorsement should be rescinded following revelations that she’s the focus of a federal corruption probe.
Instead, the panel of nine political powerbrokers – including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) – decided to let the party’s entire leadership tackle the issue on Friday, when a special meeting was set for all 80 Democratic committeemen at the Erie Café in River North.
“We will put it to a vote of the entire [party leadership] whether we withdraw the endorsement of Dorothy Brown,” Cook County Democratic Chairman Joe Berrios said outside party headquarters on LaSalle Street. “We feel this is a decision that has to be made . . . by the entire party.”
Berrios, also the county assessor, said “about four” people have expressed interested in being slated in Brown’s place. Among them: Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).
Last week it came to light that a federal grand jury is investigating Brown’s conduct.
Part of the probe is focusing on loans or other money possibly given to Brown by Circuit Court clerk employees, allegedly in exchange for jobs or promotions, sources said.
Some Democratic Party officials have said they’re angry and believe Brown purposely misled them in August when, during endorsement interviews, she insisted she wasn’t under investigation, when she was.
It’d be highly unusual for an endorsement to be stripped away. Such a move would not prevent Brown from running in the March 15 primary as a Democrat, but it’d mean she’d lose crucial party support in the form of petition circulators and money.
Candidates have until late November to turn in nominating petition signatures to get on the ballot.
A spokeswoman for Brown didn’t return messages.
But in an interview with ABC 7 on Wednesday, Brown acknowledged the FBI recently approached her with a subpoena for her cell phone. But Brown said, “I don’t have any idea who the target of the investigation is.”
The federal investigation appears to be an outgrowth of a probe by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, who began investigating Brown following a November 2013 news story by the Better Government Association and FOX Chicago about a land deal involving Brown, her husband, Benton Cook III, and Brown campaign donor Naren Patel.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter, and Dane Placko of FOX Chicago. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 386-9201. Rehkamp's Twitter handle is @patrickrehkamp.