Dorothy Brown asks for pay raise while under federal investigation

Her office is at the center of a criminal investigation, but Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown says she deserves a pay raise.

Brown has sent a letter to county leaders complaining about her $105k a year salary, and some Cook County Commissioners are stunned by the timing.

Brown denied she was under investigation when FOX 32 first asked her about it last fall.

But now federal court records show the US Attorney's office is conducting a grand jury investigation into criminal activities in Brown's office, even seizing her cellphone with a search warrant. That is why Cook County Commissioners, like John Fritchey, were stunned to receive this letter from Brown asking for a pay raise.

"You don't get a performance bonus for being under federal investigation,” said Fritchey.

In the letter, Brown says she hasn't had a raise in 15 years in office and is underpaid compared to other county elected officials.

At $105-thousand a year, she makes less than the sheriff, the state's attorney, the public defender and chief judge. But she makes exactly the same as the county clerk, the treasurer and the recorder of deeds.

Brown writes: "There is no logical explanation for the salary inequity of the Clerk of the Court, who is responsible for managing such a large number of employees compared to the other county-wide elected officials."

But then Brown suggests an explanation, that she's a woman: "This, possibly, speaks to the old adage of women having to do double the work... and receive less pay."

"We don't have a set salary for a femal clerk as opposed to a male clerk. She makes the same amount as David Orr, the county clerk, who the last time I checked is a guy,” Fritchey said.

The federal investigation into Brown was launched by a FOX 32/BGA investigation into a curious land deal in which a campaign donor gifted Brown's husband with a $100-thousand piece of property for free.

Political watchdogs say even if you ignore the scandal, asking for a raise when government is broke is politically tone deaf.

"I just think bringing that issue into the environment we have in Illinois right now is not appropriate, because everyone's kind of tightening their belts,” said Sarah Brune of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

Brown’s pay hike request already appears to be D-O-A.

In a statement, county board president Toni Preckwinkle says now is not the time to discuss raises for elected officials.