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Businessman Explains His Role With Neighborhood Recovery Initiative Program

Benton Cook III celebrating with his wife Clerk Dorothy Brown at her 2012 inauguration.
Benton Cook III celebrating with his wife Clerk Dorothy Brown at her 2012 inauguration.Dorothy Brown

Benton Cook III, a Chicago businessman, said a published story about his involvement with the Illinois Violence Prevention Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program, was misleading and fell short of the truth.

Cook, whose wife is Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, explained his role to Illinois taxpayers in a Letter to the Editor.

In part, he wrote: "While I appreciated the photo [published in a Chicago newspaper] of me and my wife showing our love and affection for one another, it was totally inaccurate and a derisive commentary on my work in my community with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

In 2011, I was invited to attend a meeting at our West Garfield Park church. At the meeting, after I shared my thoughts on what a Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program should entail, I was asked if I would be interested in being the director of the program in West Garfield, since it is the community where I was born and chose to come back to serve," Cook wrote.

"At the time I was working as a consultant for a national corporation. I was [later] given a formal job offer, which I accepted. For full disclosure, I [acknowledged] that I was married to Dorothy Brown and asked whether that made a difference. [I was hired] based upon my credentials and my heart for the community. The fact is, during the summer of 2010, there were at least 30 youth murdered in West Garfield, and as an associate minister I participated in at least 10 of the funeral services. And during the two years that I directed the program, we received awards as the top program in efficiency and program development out of the 23 Chicago offices. Also, I was recognized as top director for both years."

Cook stated that the published article contained other inaccurate information.

"I am not sure from where the article derived the $146,000 amount, because my W-2 forms, received from CAP, for those two years, indicate that I was paid far less than that. Although, I was reimbursed for my expenditures, some of which were used to purchase supplies for the NRI office and some used to feed our children in the program," he contends.

"If I had been given the opportunity to tell the true story in the article people would know that I was not given the position because of who I married. The article did not state the many times I gave money to children who said they were eating hot dogs for dinner every night; nor does it mention the many times I bought shoes and clothing for children who were being teased at school for wearing ragged and faded clothes."

Cook goes on to say that "the article does not mention all the time I spent visiting children’s homes asking parents to allow their children to continue in the program; nor does it tell of the times I spent encouraging parents and guardians who were suffering from ill health, depression or social anxiety because they couldn’t provide for their children as they would like."

In conclusion, Cook said, "it is very condescending to imply that a person with my education, and years of experience working with young people as a clinical psychologist, is not eminently qualified to work in my community for my people.

[This attack was] not only vicious but also misdirected at an African-American couple who continue to have the heart, talent and compassion to try to help right the wrongs that continue to plague the black community."