South Side pastor Corey Brooks, who backed Rauner, lands tollway post

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Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday named one of his key campaign supporters in the African-American community — South Side pastor Corey Brooks — to a $31,426-a-year part-time job as a member of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority board.

Reached shortly after the appointment was announced, Brooks said he looks forward to making sure that “the governor’s plan for diversity is carried out” when it comes to the hiring of tollway staffers and contractors.

Well aware of Rauner’s battles with Democratic leaders over the state budget, Brooks also dismissed any suggestion that Rauner, a Republican, is rewarding him for helping him unseat Democrat Pat Quinn in last year’s governor’s race.

“I don’t see it as payback; I see it as an opportunity to represent African-Americans,” said Brooks, senior pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago. “If he was going to pay me back for doing something, he could’ve paid me back a lot better than the tollway.”

Brooks joins another black minister who supported Rauner, the Rev. James Meeks, in becoming a gubernatorial appointee.

In January, Rauner named Meeks chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church and a former state senator, is paid $50 per meeting, plus expenses.

Brooks will be eligible for health care benefits in addition to his $31,426-a-year salary. His appointment is temporary, pending confirmation by the Illinois Senate.

If that happens, Brooks’ term will expire in 2019.

He’s replacing Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, whose term expired May 1.

Brooks made headlines last October when he claimed his decision to support Rauner led to him getting death threats and might have been tied to a burglary at his church.

Brooks said those threats have since died down but that “there are always people in our community who are still against the governor and against his positions.

“That just the way it’s probably going to be,” Brooks said. “I still believe he’s going to make the state better for all of us — especially African-Americans on the South Side.”

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