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Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown on running for mayor: ‘People trust me’

“I believe that the citizens of Chicago now know that they made a mistake in 2007,” Brown said, acknowledging her failed campaign for mayor against Richard M. Daley. | Eliza Davidson/Sun-Times

Surrounded by cheering fans inside a swanky downtown hotel, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown finally confronted questions Sunday about her surprise decision to run for mayor amid a years-long federal investigation of her office.

She explained that she is the “proven leader” that Chicago needs. One with a “track record for success.”

And, Brown said, “people trust me.”

“I believe that the citizens of Chicago now know that they made a mistake in 2007,” Brown said, acknowledging her failed campaign for mayor against Richard M. Daley.

Brimming with all the confidence in the world, despite an active probe by tenacious investigators who have already charged two and convicted one, Brown formally declared her candidacy Sunday afternoon at the Hilton Chicago Hotel. She promised to “lead by example and bring hope to all Chicago.”

Lauded by the crowd as “Downtown” Dorothy Brown, she insisted that for Chicago to be a world-class city, it must have “world-class blocks, world-class neighborhoods and world-class communities.”

“I pledge to work with every community to make every square mile of the city of Chicago world-class,” Brown said.

She also promised to make sure city retirees “have proper health care.”

When questioned about the investigation into job-selling and electioneering inside the clerk’s office, Brown told the crowd “I respect law enforcement” and said “it is their duty to look into” a complaint, “whether it’s true or false, as these are false.”

She has long denied any wrongdoing.

“The citizens of Chicago and Cook County have elected me five times,” Brown said. “They trust me. I am a proven leader.”

That said, Brown said she gave the federal probe “very careful consideration” when deciding whether to run for mayor.

“I realized that Chicago needs real change,” Brown said. “And I am the person to bring that change.”

The allegations swirling around Brown have yet to derail her career. Though they cost her the support of her party when she last ran for re-election, she cruised to victory anyway.

But just two months ago, federal prosecutors revealed that they’d been told the “going rate” for a job in Brown’s office was about $10,000. They were also told a “bagman” collected money for the clerk, and that employees generally had the impression that “financial benefits to the clerk could result in securing promotions.”

Those allegations date back to roughly 2015, but the feds also wrote in a December letter to a pair of defense attorneys that they had “recently obtained” new materials from the treasurer of Brown’s campaign fund, Friends of Dorothy Brown.

A former low-level Brown employee, Sivasubramani Rajaram, has already admitted lying to a federal grand jury investigating Brown. Prosecutors also accused him of bribing his way into a job in Brown’s office with a $15,000 “loan.” A judge gave him three years probation after he said he feared retaliation and was “seriously scared of other people.”

A one-time top Brown administrator, Beena Patel, also faces charges that she lied to the grand jury.