Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown has declared this to be Amnesty Week.
My first reaction to this news was the same as what yours might have been: You mean she can just give herself amnesty like that?
But no, that’s not it at all.
Brown is giving YOU amnesty if you owe any overdue court fines or fees.
For this week and this week only, Brown has declared she will waive any collection fees for those who come in and clear up their delinquent accounts.
A spokesman for the clerk’s office said the collection fees can account for as much as 30 percent of an overdue bill, which could provide a nice savings.
In addition, individuals who pay all their overdue traffic fines in full “may qualify” to get their drivers licenses reinstated, Brown says.
It’s probably just a coincidence that Brown is making this generous offer three weeks before an election in which her name appears on the ballot.
It might even be a coincidence that news of the amnesty program was disseminated via fliers, posters and emails bearing Brown’s smiling photo. I’m only surprised she didn’t air television commercials.
But these sorts of amnesty programs have become an accepted way of doing business at all levels of government, and if Brown wants to use hers for self-promotion, I suppose that’s her right. The county can surely use the money.
I bring you this information mainly as a public service in case you’ve got some overdue fine nagging at you. You can settle up either in person at any county courthouse or by phone.
As long as we’re at it, though, there is also that nagging business of Brown being up for re-election Nov. 8.
It’s all the more nagging because of the unresolved business of the federal investigation into “possible violations of federal criminal law in connection with the purchasing of jobs and promotions” within her office.
That’s how the U.S. attorney’s office described its investigation in a November 2015 indictment of Sivasubramani Rajaram, an employee in the clerk’s office.
Rajaram’s indictment rocked this year’s Democratic primary for circuit clerk, but not enough to defeat Brown, who has insisted from the start that she did nothing wrong.
Rajaram was accused of lying to a grand jury when he denied he had spoken to Brown after being rehired by the clerk’s office in August 2014.
Federal authorities say Rajaram returned to Chicago after living in India for a few years and “purportedly” loaned $15,000 to a company controlled by Brown’s husband, Benton Cook III.
Rajaram has since pleaded guilty, and his sentencing was recently postponed again until February.
No other charges have been brought in connection with the investigation.
I wish I could tell you whether that means the investigation has stalled out or whether federal investigators are just moving at their usual deliberate pace, but given the delay, I have to believe something didn’t quite go the way they were expecting.
Sorry to say, you’re probably not going to have that answer before casting your vote.
You’ve actually got a choice for circuit clerk this year, although it’s not much of a choice.
Diane Shapiro is the Republican nominee for Circuit Clerk, but it should tell you something that neither major newspaper could bring itself to endorse her despite Brown’s perceived shortcomings.
One thing’s for sure: U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon won’t be declaring any Amnesty Week.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST