by Lesley R. Chinn
A controversy alleging a conspiracy to oust Cook County Board President Todd Stroger prompted the incumbent not to appear at a candidates forum on the Northside.
The alleged conspiracy involves Stroger’s opponent s in the race for Cook County Board President including Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and Terrence O’Brien, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. A Chicago-Sun-times investigation showed Brown and O’Brien used the same campaign volunteers to circulate petitions.
After Stroger failed to appear at a forum for Cook County Board primary candidates, his campaign released a statement on Monday morning. The campaign stated that “due to the strong nature of the allegations now detailed on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times, it was then decided that the President not attend the 43rd Ward forum…” Vincent Williams, Stroger’s campaign manager, also noted that the President attended another candidates’ forum last Saturday in Oak Park.
The petitions showed 10 out of O’Brien’s 2,000-plus petitions resembled the ones Brown submitted, according to a Sun- Times investigation. Nearly 200 voters signed 10 petitions for O’Brien in the same order they signed for Brown’s petitions. Three people circulated 10 petitions. Two notaries stamped more than 200 petitions for O’Brien and more than 75 for Brown.
The Sun-Times also discovered that two longtime Democratic supporters—-Sam Morabito and Teresa Navarro—-reportedly notarized petitions circulated by 25 people for O’Brien or Brown. Morabito notarized 150 petitions for O’Brien and 42 for Brown. Morabito is an assistant chief operating engineer for the city’s aviation department while Navarro landed a city job with the assistance of the 33rd Ward Regular Democratic Organization, according to reports.
Another petition circulator, Jeremy Dean, who identified himself as a stand-up comedian, gathered 80 signatures for Brown and 45 from O’Brien. Sam Butcher, a Northwest side resident, gathered 60 signatures for O’Brien and Brown.
Andrew J. Tolbert, another Northwest side resident, gathered 280 signatures for Brown and 45 for O’Brien. Nearly a majority of all the voters who signed O’Brien’s petitions also signed Brown, which includes Tolbert, who signed his own name on three—-once for O’Brien and twice for Brown, the Sun-times investigation uncovered. In response, the Brown campaign said in a released statement that they did not, “authorize anyone to circulate petitions for any other candidate,” and that “Dorothy Brown is not working with Terry O’Brien.” Calls to O’Brien’s campaign office however, went unreturned.