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.
Cook has hired prominent Chicago defense attorney Ed Genson, who has defended a litany of high-profile clients in Chicago, including media baron Conrad Black; R&B singer R. Kelly, and chief of staff to George Ryan, Scott Fawell. Sources say Cook is the focus of a Cook County grand jury investigation as well as a person of interest in a federal probe that is looking at Gov. Pat Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, a now-defunct $54 million anti-violence program.
“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.”
Genson’s remarks come after Brown’s and Cook’s names surfaced in a series of Sun-Times reports outlining Cook’s hiring at Chicago Area Project, which used state grant dollars to pay Cook more than $146,000 in salary and benefits over a two-year period.
The newspaper reported that Brown’s name was tied to Cook’s nonprofit, Dream Catchers Community Development Corporation. The organization listed Brown as its fiscal manager on documents submitted to the state when Chicago Area Project opted to pull the plug on what had been a $10,000 allotment to Cook’s organization because of conflict-of-interest concerns.
In the last several weeks, federal investigators have attempted to interview witnesses with ties to Cook as well as the Chicago Area Project, according to a source with knowledge of the probe.
While one of the Dream Catchers documents bore Brown’s signature, Genson told the Sun-Times on Friday that she was not the person who signed it.
“It’s not her signature on that form,” Genson said. “Whoever signed that piece of paper, it’s not her signature.”
Genson though conceded Brown is the group’s accountant. “She’s a lawyer and a CPA. She does his books,” he said. “He thought it was a conflict and he’s the one who canceled them.”
“He’s really the fall guy for this because of his relationship” to Brown, Genson said.
The Sun-Times reported on Friday that Brown voted by proxy to channel $5 million to a West Side nonprofit to help continue funding Gov. Pat Quinn’s now-disbanded Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. Quinn’s office called that move “unacceptable,” because the vote came at the same time the nonprofit, Chicago Area Project, and how a nonprofit Cook formed wound up itself getting Neighborhood Recovery Initiative funding.