CHICAGO -- Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown helped manage an organization linked to Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled 2010 anti-violence program that received state funds, a position she described Tuesday as an unpaid volunteer accountant.
The organization, Dream Catchers Community Development Corp., was founded by Brown's husband, Benton Cook III, and a 2012 report turned over to the now-defunct commission overseeing such programs showed Brown's signature and listed her as "fiscal manager," according to a Tuesday story in the Chicago Sun-Times. The newspaper cited state records.
Dream Catchers was supposed to distribute anti-violence literature in 2011 and had a contract to do so with Chicago Area Project, which oversaw organizations receiving money through Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. This year, state auditors blasted Quinn's initiative for spending and management problems. Federal and Cook County prosecutors are looking into the program.
The newspaper reported Dream Catchers was awarded thousands of dollars, but its agreement ended in May 2011 after Chicago Area Project learned of a potential conflict of interest with Cook also being paid by Chicago Area Project to oversee other programs. The newspaper has reported Cook received more than $100,000 from Chicago Area Project. Cook has said he worked for the group but didn't receive that much. The Sun-Times also reported last week that Cook has a prior conviction for a financial crime, prompting Quinn's administration to launch an internal review.
Chicago Area Project officials later asked Dream Catchers to return some of the unexpended money, which it did.
Brown, a Democrat first elected in 2000, released a statement Tuesday saying she received no pay for the position.
She also defended the work of her husband, a clinical psychologist and youth counselor who she said was recruited by Chicago Area Project to work on Quinn's initiative in 2011. She said he took the job to help combat street violence in a Chicago neighborhood where he was born and added that recent news reports don't "diminish the quality of work" her husband achieved.
"I proudly support my husband's commitment to reaching out to and helping at-risk youth," she said in the statement.
Questions about the anti-violence program have dogged Quinn's re-election campaign. He faces a challenge from Republican challenger Bruce Rauner. Quinn has said he identified problems ahead of the auditor's report and addressed them, including abolishing the agency that ran his program. His office has said it will cooperate on any inquiry and launched an internal review after the Sun-Times reported Cook pleaded guilty in 1999 to writing bad checks.