Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown attempted today to ease tensions over her employee "jeans day" fundraisers, but her hour-long news conference seemed to raise as many questions as it answered.
"Jeans day dollars are voluntarily submitted," Brown declared. "Employees who decide to participate know what cause it will benefit".
Brown said the program usually involves a designated charity or office event. Employees give a designated amount, usually two dollars, and receive a sticker which they wear with blue jeans for that day.
Brown and her staffers said 22 such days were held last year, benefiting the office picnic fund and employee of the year program. Two other days were staged to benefit the Heart Association and an employee who suffered a fire at home.
But when she was asked about another event, benefiting Hispanic Heritage Month, Brown made clear she had no recollection. Some employees have complained to reporters that there is lax accounting of the jeans day funds, and no internal or official audits.
"It is unfortunate that this innocent practice is being maligned by so many in the media," Brown said.
Asked how much money came in through jeans days last year, Brown and her staff indicated it was about $40,000. But when they were asked later to produce documentation, the total was well over $59,000.
Brown is a candidate for president of the Cook County Board.