Jeans Tax Raises New Ethical Questions About Dorothy Brown

Brown's ethics often challenged

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Cook County Board President Candidate Dorothy Brown is feeling the squeeze today over a practice of charging her more than 2,100 employees in the County Clerk’s office a fee to wear denim to work.

    Critics say its an unethical fund-raising scheme.

    Under the so-called “jeans tax” employees are given the option of wearing denim to work on Fridays if they agree to pay a $2 to $3 fee, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    “It’s a voluntary thing,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune. “If they want to do it, fine, because blue jeans is not our attire, and you have to have on a tag saying I’m wearing blue jeans because ... But they want to wear blue jeans and not pay — is that what it is?”

    Whether or not the practice is voluntary isn’t the issue, however.

    What’s got political types scratching their heads is what happened to the money, because there doesn’t seem to be an accounting.

    “That really is the question,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “She is the director of that office, so she can put policies into place as to her employees, but when you are charging them money, you have to have some accountability and transparency in place as to where they money is going.”

    Brown, the Tribune points out, often engages in old-style political fund raising by “asking” her employees to donate to her campaign fund. Many of her employees have organized annual birthday parties for the Clerk that double as fund-raisers, and the implication is that the jeans tax doubles as a fund raising effort as well.

    Her ethics have been called into question at other times as well. Near the beginning of the campaign she held a press conference from her County Clerk’s office – an ethical no-no for politicians.

    Brown’s campaign spokesman Toure Muhammad said the campaign was assembling records, but that it would take time to give an accounting of where the jeans money went.