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Pay the bagman $10,000 to work for Dorothy Brown?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Editorial Board

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown isn’t on the Illinois primary ballot but her office is generating splashy headlines anyway. These are the kinds of headlines that tend to torpedo political careers, even ones more buoyant than the so-far Unsinkable Dorothy Brown’s.

The latest allegations:

One employee of Brown’s office told federal investigators that the “going rate” to buy a job in Cook County Circuit Court was $10,000, paid to Brown’s personal bagman.Another said it was well known in Brown’s office that showering her with gifts could earn promotions for employees.

Federal prosecutors revealed these allegations as part of a court filing in the pending case against Beena Patel, one of Brown’s former aides. Patel, a former associate clerk who at one point supervised nearly 500 employees, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she lied on two occasions to a federal grand jury investigating corruption in Brown’s office.

About that investigation: It’s been going on for about five years.

It has included allegations that Patel and other employees routinely helped raise money for Brown’s campaign by hitting up co-workers for tickets to fundraisers. And a February 2017 accusation by federal investigators that Brown took a $15,000 bribe disguised as business loans for Brown’s goat meat supply company from a man seeking a job with her office. The man was hired shortly after he forked over the purported loans, federal officials say.

An attorney for Brown said the payments were legitimate loans, not bribes. They’ve since been paid back.

Five years is a long time for the circuit court clerk’s office to be under suspicion and investigation. But so far it hasn’t hurt Brown at the polls. In 2016, she won re-election handily. That victory came even after the Cook County Democratic Party dropped its primary endorsement of her when news broke that the FBI had seized her work cellphone.

Through it all, Brown has maintained that she’s done nothing wrong. The feds haven’t charged her with anything.

This week’s filing, however, shows that this legal saga likely isn’t over. Will Brown remain unsinkable?

Join the discussion on Twitter @Trib_Ed_Board and on Facebook.

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