Despite criticism, Dorothy Brown defeats Ricardo Munoz in circuit court clerk race
BY LISA DONOVAN Cook County Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org March 20, 2012 7:25PM
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, right, holds hands with Chicago City Treasurer Stephanie Neely at Brown's election headquarters Tuesday. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: March 20, 2012 11:33PM
On the campaign trail, she was criticized for taking campaign contributions from her staff and mismanaging her office.
But Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown emerged unscathed Tuesday as she handily won the Democratic primary — the only real challenge standing in her way on the road to a fourth term.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Brown was leading with 67 percent to 33 percent for Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).
In a speech at the Shrine, a South Loop club, Brown thanked her opponent for “giving us an opportunity to get our message out and show how excellent the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County office really is.”
“Thank you for believing in me and giving me another term as guardian of the public trust,” Brown, 58, told her supporters.
The race was sometimes brutal, with Munoz, a veteran alderman, dredging up old questions about whether Brown and her lieutenants in the clerk’s office strong-armed lower-ranking staff to contribute to her campaigns — to the tune of at least $250,000, state and county documents show.
On the campaign trail, Brown said it’s perfectly legal to accept contributions from her workers — and they did it willingly.
Munoz, 47, conceded defeat just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. “Just six short months ago, we came together as reformers and decided it was time to eliminate corruption in the court clerk’s office,” Munoz said in remarks provided to the Sun-Times. “Tonight, it appears we will not achieve our goal — this time.
“Tonight, with two former governors in jail and one of the lowest voter turnouts in years, it would be tempting to say, as others have said, that Chicago ain’t ready for reform,” Munoz said, but later added “tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves and go back to work.”
Much of the campaign centered on inefficiencies and what some called a mess in the clerk’s office, a $111 million-a-year, 1,900-employee operation with the primary duty of serving as the official recordkeeper of criminal and civil cases in the Cook County court system.
In interviews with the Sun-Times, bar association leaders said lawyers in Cook County “universally” agree the clerk’s files have never been such a mess. Filings are missing from cases, replaced by documents from other cases, they claim. Lawyers hoping Brown’s office can assemble a full record to appeal a case to the state appellate court find they must recreate case records at their office when the clerk can’t find things.
During her victory speech, Brown batted back at allegations her office is too slow to modernize. In DuPage County, for instance, 85 percent of cases are filed online — a comparison Brown says is unfair since Cook County’s system is so much larger.
Brown told the 150 supporters Tuesday “we developed electronic filling — yes we developed electronic filing” and vowed to “work with the supreme court to come up with a policy that will permit electronic documents to be seen online.”
Another hotly contested race was for the Cook County Board of Review, which hears and decides property tax appeals.
The GOP faceoff between incumbent Dan Patlak and challenger Sean Morrison ended with a Patlak victory. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Patlak was ahead with 54.6 percent of the vote to Patlak’s 46.3 percent. He’ll face Democrat Casey Thomas in the fall.
In the race for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board, it appeared Patrick Daley Thompson, 42, was on the way to being the first of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s grandchildren to officially join the family business.
With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Thompson, son of the late mayor’s eldest daughter, Patricia Daley Martino, had 18 percent of the vote — enough to win one of the three open seats on the board. He’s among the presumptive winners, for now, because there are no Republican challengers in the general election.