Embattled Clerk Brown asks staff to join multi-level marketing s - FOX 32 News Chicago

Embattled Clerk Brown asks staff to join multi-level marketing sales team

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) - Some employees of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown are complaining about how she is trying to make some extra cash.

FOX 32 News and the Better Government Association have learned Clerk Brown has tried to recruit employees to join her in a home-based business that could be putting money in the clerk's pocket.

5LINX is a multi-level marketing firm that uses a business model similar to Amway and Mary Kay to sell communications and utility services.

According to information found online, one of 5LINX’s rising sale stars is none other than Clerk Brown. She oversees an office of 1,800 county employees and makes $105,000 a year.

FOX 32 and the Better Government Association obtained an email sent to some of the employees in March from "Friends of Dorothy Brown," which is the clerk's political organization.

The email said: "Please invite your family and friends who you think would be interested in hearing about a business opportunity where they can properly add to the financial health of their family."

That meeting, at the historic Quinn Chapel on the Southside, was attended by a number of Brown's top managers.

After listening to a sales pitch by a 5LINX representative, sources tell FOX 32 that Brown endorsed the program as a way for all of them to make money together.

Andre White is a church employee who sat in on the meeting.

"There were mentions of upscale cars...Putting yourself in a financial—different financial bracket," said White.

Like most multi-level marketing companies, the way 5LINX is structured is it appears Clerk Brown gets a commission on sales generated by people she recruits into the company; which potentially includes her county employees.

"There’s an implicit pressure on them. They work for you. They feel the pressure to do this to please you and to maintain their job security. It's not a level playing field, it's not appropriate, it's a conflict of interest," said Andy Shaw of the BGA.

A spokesperson for Clerk Brown refused to comment on this story, writing:

"None of your questions is related to the operations of the office of the clerk of the circuit court; therefore we have nothing to add."

FOX 32’s only clue about Brown's success comes in a Facebook post from a 5LINX team member.

"Wow... Special congrats to... Dorothy Brown...on achieving the position of national director in 34 days! She is on fire in 5LINX," said the Facebook post.

Brown and her husband, Benton Cook, are already under investigation by a Cook county grand jury, after FOX 32 and the BGA reported how the couple cashed in on a piece of property given for free to her husband by a campaign contributor.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, a frequent critic of the clerks, said the 5LINX allegations are troubling.

"When we see a series of activities, you really start to wonder what's going on in that office, and the judgment of leadership there," said Fritchey.

5LINX co-founder Jeb Tyler said his company frowns on its salespeople soliciting business from people working under them, saying it creates a conflict of interest.

The clerk's office has an ethics policy that Brown signed when she was first elected, but her spokesperson ignored FOX 32’s request for a copy of it.

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