Lester: Cook County homeland security chief's past troubles

Cook County's newly appointed chief of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, whose job is to deploy personnel and equipment to incidents and disasters in the suburbs, has a few skeletons in his closet, a review shows.

County President Toni Preckwinkle announced Ernie Brown's appointment to the $160,000-a-year job this week, highlighting the former Darien police chief's more than three decades of public safety, community outreach and leadership in Chicago and the suburbs.

Brown, Preckwinkle said, is “uniquely suited” for the post.


What she didn't mention was a 2004 settlement the city of Chicago paid out after Brown, then a Chicago police commander, ordered searches of more than 200 attendees at a 2001 community basketball tournament at the Chicago Park District's Stateway Gardens Field House.

Brown also was dropped from consideration for a suburban Phoenix police chief job after a search committee found his job title did not match his resume, according to a 2008 article in The Arizona Republic. He told the newspaper at the time he accidentally sent an old resume after he was demoted in Chicago, a change he said resulted from appointment of a new superintendent, not from performance.

Allegations Brown sexually harassed a female police officer were dismissed last year by a federal judge who noted the statute of limitations had expired. Brown publicly denied the accusation during a Darien City Council meeting, according to minutes from August 2013.

Effective leadership

In an emailed statement, Preckwinkle spokeswoman Natalia Derevyanny said Brown is “at the highest level of relevant experience, credentials and accomplishments to effectively lead the department.”

Preckwinkle, she said, was aware of the 2013 allegation and the finding that it was without merit. Regarding the 2004 settlement, Derevyanny said, “Brown received information there would be a shooting at the tournament and dispatched officers who searched attendees and recovered three firearms, potentially saving lives.”

A route to consensus?

The Route 53 expressway ends at Lake-Cook Road. Daily Herald File Photo

I've obtained an exclusive first look at a survey commissioned by the Lake County Transportation Alliance about the seemingly continuous discussion of extending Route 53 north by 12 miles from its current end at Lake-Cook Road to Route 120.

The poll conducted last week surveying 923 Lake County residents found more than 75 percent approved of the project, while 17.6 percent disapproved and 7.2 percent were unsure.

Alliance President Suzanne Zupec says results mirror a 2009 countywide referendum on the issue.

The survey comes as the One Long Grove group, which opposes the plan, conducted an informational meeting addressing potential impacts of the project.

Farnsworth House

Those who know me are aware I'm a big modern architecture buff fascinated in particular by the quirks and efficiencies of decades past, like the all-steel Lustron Homes of the 1950s that dot the suburbs. Another favorite, Plano's Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1945 - which has been called one of the most important pieces of 20th-century architecture - has added special Saturday evening tours this month that'll let you take in some spectacular sunsets from the one-room steel and glass structure overlooking the Fox River.

Golf Hall of Fame Induction

Among those inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame today at Medinah Country Club is Jim Sobb, a Palatine native who won three Illinois PGA championships, in 1995, 1999 and 2000.

Bikes, too

One of the speakers at New Trier Republican Organization's fall dinner this week was Sylvie Legere, who you might know as a Wilmette political activist and wife of Cubs owner Todd Ricketts. Along with their respective work in politics and baseball, the two own the Higher Gear bicycle shop in town. As the story goes, biking in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine State Forest was a favorite dating activity for the pair.


Former University of Illinois Board of trustees chair Chris Kennedy, at right, with Gibbie Buchholtz at the new Zion location opening of Top Box Foods.

Here's former University of Illinois Board of trustees chair Chris Kennedy, at right (yup, that's the 8th of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children), with Gibbie Buchholtz at the new Zion location opening of Top Box Foods. Kennedy and his wife Sheila started the nonprofit, which aims to bring high-quality, low-cost food to needy families, after stepping down as president from Merchandise Mart Properties in 2011.

Reporting roots

Deborah Bullwinkel

Did you know Villa Park Village President Deb Bullwinkel was a beat reporter for the Lisle Sun? The Bullwinkel campaign gave me an early look at her campaign video as she vies against Democrats Raja Krishnamoorthi and Mike Noland for the 8th Congressional District seat now held by Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.

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