CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown announced Tuesday that she will not be running for re-election next year.
She told CBS 2 she is ready to move on after serving as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk for nearly 20 years.
Brown sat down Wednesday with CBS 2’s Brad Edwards, and emphasized that she is not “throwing in the towel.” She plans to veer into the private sector, and also to continue her activist work.
WATCH: Brad Edwards’ Full Interview With Court Clerk Dorothy Brown:
“I’m going to continue community activism; probably start a foundation to help people; help even more people – you know, expungement process is something that I’m known for nationally,” Brown said. “I’m going to continue that legacy, and then of course, from a financial, technology, legal, and leadership standpoint, I want to be able to help others. And so I want to just go to help others go to a high level, as well as myself.”
For the past several years, federal investigators have been looking into allegations Brown sold jobs in exchange for campaign donations, with an alleged going rate of $10,000. A court document released about a year ago claimed that Brown herself collected the cash.
Brown was also scrutinized for a land deal involving a commercial building at Pulaski and Cermak roads that was given to her husband, Benton Cook III, by businessman and Brown campaign donor Naren Patel.
Brown has denied all allegations and has not been indicted, but two of her top associates were criminally charged – and were either convicted or pleaded guilty.
Beena Patel was convicted in April of perjury, on charges that she lied to a grand jury investigating claims that Brown solicited donations to her campaign from her staff, and also traded promotions for money.
Sivasubramani Rajaram was rehired by Brown after three years away after he allegedly loaned $15,000 to Goat Masters Corp., a company controlled by Brown’s husband, according to the indictment. Rajaram was ultimately was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Brown told Edwards that she had never profited off a land deal, received a kickback for a job, or forced an employee to donate to her campaign.
“Absolutely not, and I pushed that from the very beginning – explained to individuals that if anyone in this office ever pressured you, I was the person that they should come to. You know, all those things – that land deal was an arms-length transaction, period,” she said.
Brown chalked up the scrutiny that her office has faced for people whom she fired upon taking office and who wanted revenge.
“I also feel that, you know, there were people that I terminated when I took office that from the very beginning decided that they were going to quote-unquote ‘get me.’ And they worked and worked, and they basically went there, and they told some lies,” she said. “Of course, when you lie on a politician in Chicago, that’s you know, when you tell those kind of lies, people have to investigate, which is fine. But the end of the day, the best defense is a good offense, and the best offense is to make sure that regardless of what rock they turn over, that they find nothing.”
Brown said she has never been interviewed by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.
Meanwhile, Brown’s office has also faced criticism for claims that when it comes to her office’s job of maintaining all the paperwork and records for the nation’s second largest court system, all the systems she uses are decades behind. Critics complain that computers are antiquated, and note that triplicate carbon copy paper is still used in some courtrooms.
Brown said it is actually she who deserves credit for bringing her office and its technology into the 21st century. She further said that there are already plans afoot to further advance the office’s technology through digital imaging.
“I brought it out of the dark ages. It took a long time to get it there, but next month, I will start an implementation of a $36 million case management system. At the end of that, when I get – that’s going to be the criminal and the civil and then the traffic – all of my records will be imaged,” she said. “Right now, all of our records except for minor traffic tickets are electronic images – whether you bring me paper in the courtroom, I image those documents. Even the computers that the press uses are digital, and they then say that they’re have no digitalization in this office.”
Brown ran twice for mayor unsuccessfully. In 2007, she challenged then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, but finished in a distant second in a three-way race. Daley won 72 percent of the vote, Brown won 20 percent, and Bill “Dock” Walls won 8 percent. Daley also won all 20 of the city’s majority-black wards, despite facing two African-American challengers.
Brown also ran for mayor this year, first announcing her campaign before then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel shocked the city and said he would not run for reelection last September. Brown was ultimately removed from the ballot, four days after a hearing officer at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners determined she didn’t have enough valid signatures on her nominating petitions.
She told Edwards she does not plan to seek elected office again, and said she hoped for a legacy showing that she “did everything that I possibly could to serve the people.
“I helped thousands of people, Brad, get a second chance. I get people walking up to me all the time talking about, now they can work; they can take care of their families,” Brown said. “I want my legacy to be that I helped as many of my staff people here to be able to go to another level in their professional careers, and I appreciate my staff people. I appreciate my supporters. I appreciate my family – my husband especially – for standing with me, because they tried to take them down as well – for standing with me; for helping to get the things done that I have done in this office. And so it’s about service for me. It’s always been in my heart. Since a child, I just believe in helping and serving people.”