Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown told Democratic Party leaders over the summer she wasn’t under criminal investigation even though she was — and now, party chairman Joseph Berrios said Friday, they are taking a new look at the endorsement.
Brown was asked about a possible criminal investigation when she had her slating interview in August, Berrios said. That was about a year and a half after news reports revealed authorities had begun investigating a land deal involving her, her husband and a campaign contributor.
“The question was posed to her by various people, and she had said ‘no,’ ” Berrios said following a Democratic Party meeting downtown Friday. “We’ve got an executive committee, and we’ve got the full committee. We will discuss it, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Berrios’ comments came after the Chicago Sun-Times, Better Government Association and FOX Chicago TV reported Thursday that the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has a grand jury looking into loans Brown might have gotten from employees, according to a source familiar with the case.
Another source said the FBI was asking more than a year ago about whether personnel decisions in Brown’s office were influenced by financial or political considerations.
“They asked me about personnel stuff,” that source said. “Was somebody paying for a job? . . . Why was this person promoted? . . . Pay to play.”
“She’s under investigation, according to the newspapers,” Berrios, who is also the elected Cook County assessor, said of Brown. “We haven’t had an official notification of it. Until then, she’s our candidate.”
The party has begun circulating nominating petitions for Brown, for the March 2016 primary.
But Berrios noted those petitions aren’t due for another six weeks. That would give party leaders time to retract Brown’s endorsement, which would require the agreement of a majority of Chicago ward and suburban township committeemen — the party leaders in those areas.
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Said Berrios: “We will take all of this into consideration, and we’ll make a determination. We’ve got until Nov. 30 to get petitions out.”
Several aldermen who are also committeemen declined to discuss Brown’s situation after Friday’s meeting, among them Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Walter Burnett (27th) and Edward M. Burke (14th).
“I don’t really have an opinion,” said Burke. “I would defer to the chairman.”
Brown’s office is the repository of court records and a source of patronage jobs.
A spokeswoman for Brown did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Chris Fusco is a Sun-Times reporter. Robert Herguth reports for the Better Government Association. Dane Placko is a reporter for FOX Chicago TV.
Contributing: Katie Drews, Patrick Rehkamp
Photo of Joseph Berrios courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times.
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