Dorothy Brown’s husband Benton Cook received 7% of the anti-violence grant provided to West Garfield Park. Was it handed out to him just because he is Dorothy’s hubby? That would be absolute fraud but an article in the Sun-Times claims that records of the now disbanded Illinois Violence Prevention Authority prove that Cook was paid as the Program Coordinator. What the article and the Republicans who kick started the investigation didn’t mention is that most grant dollars allow for 10% of the funds to be used for administration.
Did Cook administer? What other dollars were assigned to program administration in the budget? If the total is 10% or less, the expenditures were well inside of the normally allowed budget categories.
A more appropriate question is did Cook do the job to the best of his ability? Let’s face it diminishing gun/gang violence is no easy task, especially in the midst of economic depression, falling resources and a pop culture that glorifies “gangstah”. Couple all of these factors to the advertising industries’ unadulterated siren song to buy the latest shoe, butt parked pants, etc. to a community that has very few legitimate means of acquiring those products and you have the perfect storm.
The article also mentions that the program paid two gang involved teens to hand out flyers about non-violence at the rate of $8.50 per hour. It is unfortunate that one of the young men ended up dead from a gunshot wound to the head and the second teen hired in the program is a suspect in the shooting. Does that mean that the program expenditure is at fault? More than likely the involvement in the prevention program had nothing to do with the murder. The program's intention might have been good but we all know about intentions and what they pave. $8.50/hr will not compete with money made by dealing illegal drugs. The turf wars are steeped in blood. It is naive to think a two year grant program would bring these types of tragedies to a halt but was the expenditure fraudulent? I don’t think so.
Over all for two years West Garfield was awarded nearly 1.1 million dollars to address violence in one of the top 20 most violent communities in the City. That might sound like a great deal of money unless you are talking about lottery jackpots or salaries paid to Wall Street big wigs. Oops, they get paid in much bigger zeroes. Who could possibly believe this sum of money would address a multibillion dollar issue closely aligned to substandard schools, lack of education and employment opportunity, decrepit housing and the ever present battles between warring factions over product distribution?
Yes the Republicans want to use this unfortunately naive expenditure as evidence of Quinn and cronyism. Senate Majority Leader Christine Radogno, R- Lemont wants a Federal investigation. “Almost $150,000 to the spouse of a countywide elected official from the governor of the same party, that’s outrageous.”Sorry sister but a Federal investigation will cost the tax payers a lot more than $150,000. Is there any proof that Governor Quinn ever saw the budget providing the salary to Benton Cook? In all likelihood, no. Was it a bad move for the position of Program Coordinator to be awarded to Dorothy’s hubby? Maybe.
I didn’t know what his qualifications were to be a program director but looking over his credentials on line, he certainly looked qualified to me. What the Sun-Times article failed to mention was that Benton Cook is Dr. Benton Cook with credentials in psychotherapy and a background in program management. Seems he was very underpaid considering his resume.
There are other allegations in respect to Benton Cook and his wife Dorothy Brown in the Sun-Times article stemming from source A Better Government Association/Fox New. According to the article, Cook is under investigation because a Dorothy campaign contributor gave Cook some land on the south side. That in itself is nothing at which to cast aspersions but Dorothy’s name was added to the deed; the land was conveyed to a corporation owned by a company the couple owns and then sold for $100,000. Sticky wicket? Maybe but the last time I heard you can do whatever you want with a gift you receive. How many times has that gifted fruit cake been re-wrapped for someone else? Of course Fox news thinks what Koch brothers want Fox news to think and if slinging mud at a Democrat is possible by all means do it.
Personally I think neither party is beyond reproach. Until we have campaign reform and NO government office is up for sale we will be constantly assailed with this deep level of BS! So, will Republicans toast Quinn with Cook? I hope not. It shouldn’t take tax payer dollars and some trumped up junk to discredit anyone. David Reis, Republican State Rep was quoted in the Sun-Times article, "Maybe [Cook] had an instrumental part in this and did good work for NRI, but you have to sit back and say something doesn't smell right." He continued" It's not surprising. It's the Chicago way." Funny but I thought the entire state of Illinois voted for governors. As to the Illinois record on governors breaking bad, four of the last seven governors make the breaking bad list, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Dan Walker and Otto Kerner.We, Illinoisans have lousy luck it seems with governors.