Black officials fail in bid to derail Anita Alvarez nomination
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter email@example.com October 6, 2011 7:10PM
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez . | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:46AM
African-American elected officials launched a short-lived effort to derail Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’ re-election Thursday. The uprising revealed a major fault in Alvarez’ support among African-American elected officials.
Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) nominated Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) to replace Alvarez as the party’s nominee. All but two of the African-American committeemen and some white and Hispanic committeemen joined the effort but they came up short.
“It’s apparent that there is concern, a deep concern, from a good percentage of the community, from the Black Caucus — that has to be addressed,” said Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
Brookins said he was unhappy with Alvarez for targeting Northwestern University journalism students; for failing to convict a police officer for drunk driving in a crash that killed two people; and for handing off an investigation of how her office handled a case involving former Mayor Richard Daley’s nephew. And he accused her of being unresponsive to African-American elected officials. Other committeemen joining him echoed those complaints.
For months now, some African-American aldermen lobbied former City Inspector General David Hoffman, Brookins, who lost to Alvarez four years ago, and other potential candidates to run against Alvarez but Hoffman, Brookins and the others declined.
On Thursday morning Alvarez appeared before the 80 Ward and Township committeemen of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. No other candidate appeared and she appeared on-course to get their endorsement for re-election.
But when it came time for the vote Thursday afternoon, Jackson rose.
“I move that we nominate Howard Brookins for state’s attorney,” she said.
Other committeemen protested that it was too late in the process and noted none of the Black Caucus members had asked any questions or voiced any objections to Alvarez when she appeared before them Thursday morning. That was a red-herring argument because no questions or comments were allowed this year – those were relegated to a “pre-slating” session that Alvarez could not attend because she was prosecuting Shawn Gaston in the killing of Chicago Police Officer Alex Valadez.
Brookins laid out his case against Alvarez:
“There are several things that have gone wrong in that office: Investigating kids at Northwestern for getting people off Death Row as opposed to investigating why those people where on Death Row or wrongfully convicted in the first place,” Brookins said.
Alvarez has resisted calls from Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions to free Anthony McKinney based evidence of his innocence unearthed by journalism students. Instead her office accused the students of using suspect methods and requested copies of the students’ grades and e-mails. Her office’ efforts led to Prof. David Protess leaving the school.
Brookins criticized Alvarez for not trying harder to secure a conviction for police officer John Ardelean after he was video-taped downing five shots at a bar and then slamming his SUV into a car, killing two people. His fellow officers gave him no breathalyzer test for seven hours because they said they did not smell alcohol on his breath.
“It was clear some of these police officers were lying,” Brookins said. But the judge threw out key evidence in the case.
Finally, Brookins said, there is “The Vanecko case.” Alvarez’ office can find no files on the 2004 case in which Daley nephew R.J. Vanecko punched David Koschman, who fell to the ground and later died. Brookins said she should have investigated her office’ handling of the case herself instead of looking for an outside investigator.
Brookins also ridiculed Alvarez’ celebrated conviction of cop-killer Gaston last-month as a “political stunt.”
“It is not hard to get a conviction of someone who has given a confession in a case where they are accused of killing a police officer,” Brookins said.
Brookins, Jackson, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) and other members of the Black Caucus said Alvarez has fences to mend with them if she wants their help getting re-elected.
Alvarez spokesman Ken Snyder responded, “When they say she hasn’t been ‘responsive,’ it’s less about her record and more about the fact that she doesn’t attend political events and fund-raisers night in and night out. She’s a proud Democrat but not a political insider.”
Snyder also said charges from Brookins that Alvarez was not hiring many African-Americans – and that there were no more African-American lead prosecutors in the office today than there were in 1990 – are false.
“Anita has spent her career recruiting minorities and women,” Snyder said. “She doesn’t necessarily hire those recommended by the political establishment, but she does hire highly qualified people to work in the state’s attorney’s office.”
The Democrats endorsed incumbent Dorothy Brown for re-election to Clerk of the Circuit Court over challenger Ald. Rick Munoz. They endorsed Debra Shore; Patrick Daley Thompson (nephew of the former mayor) and Cary Steele (daughter of Appellate Justice John O. Steele) for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. They endorsed incumbent Larry Rogers for the Board of Review over the man he beat, Bob Shaw.