Dorothy Brown moonlights with investigation looming

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown appeared on a recent cable show to promote her latest money-making venture: "Candidates 360,” a series of seminars designed to teach people how to run for political office.

She said it's all about nurturing future leaders.

"It's really giving back,” Brown said. “We have to give back sometimes. And people say 'well you may be training your opponent.' well, I just feel whatever for you is for you."

But "giving back" comes with a price. Brown is charging $175 for the seminar, plus $20 for a booklet.

Two weeks ago--on the very same day both Chicago newspapers featured stories about corruption in Brown's office--Better Government Association investigator Katie Drews plunked down the money to attend Brown's political seminar at a West Side hotel.

"We were in kind of a small room and dorothy was up at the front at a podium," Drews said.

A syllabus for the event summarizes the clerk's talking points, including how to build support.

"She placed a strong emphasis on churches and using churches as a place to find support,” Drews said.

The class also showed attendees how to "be the candidate.”

"She went through the proper procedure for shaking hands, for example. Also talked about appearance, what you should wear, what you shouldn't wear,” Drews said.

Only eight other people attended Brown's seminar, including one of her neighbors and a Cook County judge.
     But at least two participants have ties to Brown's office, including Christopher Hodges, a circuit court clerk manager making $56,000 a year.
The daughter of Madina Neely was also at the class. Neely, Brown's personal scheduler, got a big promotion and pay bump last year to nearly $63,000.

"Dorothy Brown has a history of putting the arm on her employees to do things for her. We've documented that on multiple occasions on stories we've done together,” Andy Shaw from the Better Government Association said.

A couple years ago FOX 32 reported Brown recruited some of her employees to join a multi-level marketing company selling vitamins and supplements.

Earlier this week a former Brown employee was sentenced in federal court for lying to a grand jury about giving the clerk a $15,000 loan to start a goat meat business. The feds called it a bribe to secure a job.

A federal investigation into job selling in Brown's office has been going on for nearly two years.

State records showed the clerk recently paid criminal defense attorney Ed Genson $3,500 out of her campaign fund.

While plenty of public officials moonlight, and it's not illegal, the timing raises questions.

"Cook county taxpayers shell out a lot of money for her to run an office that's critically important to the operation of the court system,” Shaw said. “And by all accounts it's inefficient and unproductive and mired in antiquity. And one reason may be that she spends so much time on other activities, and that's unfortunate."

Brown's spokesperson told FOX 32 that because it's a side business, they have no comment.