Welcome to Brooklyn

Damn the criticism -- Mayor Ruby Cook runs Brooklyn her way. But in this historic town, best known for its sex trade, she's not the biggest problem. Brooklyn is broke, divided and sinking fast.

Young, who gave grand-jury testimony in the same case under a grant of immunity, admitted that two of his daughters worked for Baker, one in the adult bookstore and another as a manager at a massage parlor that also served as a brothel. Like Cook, Young said he had no idea that Baker ran a whorehouse. While assistant chief, Young moonlighted as head of security for topless clubs and massage parlors in Brooklyn and East St. Louis. The late Mayor Davis told the FBI it was Young and a former officer named Sylvester Huddley who told him the owner of the Red Garter wanted him to be mayor and would make sure he got paid. "Huddley and Young told Davis that they had told (the brothel owner) what a good man Davis was and that he needed money to take care of his grandchildren," wrote an FBI agent in a synopsis of his interview with the late mayor. "Huddley and Young both assured Davis that he would receive an unspecified sum of money from the organization if he became mayor." Today, Young is still police chief, and he owes his job to Mayor Cook, who has staunchly resisted trustees' efforts to fire him.

Charles Douglas got sucked in.

When he became village attorney, he made two things perfectly clear. "You've got to pay me each month," he recalls telling the mayor and board. "The other thing is, no bullshit, no crime. If I see anything wrong, I'm going to point it out; you're going to get it corrected. If there's any bullshit or whatever, I'm out of here." He smiles slightly at the memory.

Brooklyn is best known for its sex businesses, which some village leaders would rather see go away. "What's so sad is, they license those places for just a few pennies, $15,000 or something," says the Rev. William Turner. "I just can't understand how the city officials would allow them to do what they're doing."
Jennifer Silverberg
Brooklyn is best known for its sex businesses, which some village leaders would rather see go away. "What's so sad is, they license those places for just a few pennies, $15,000 or something," says the Rev. William Turner. "I just can't understand how the city officials would allow them to do what they're doing."

Two years later, Douglas hasn't collected a check in four months, but he's still coming to board meetings, where make-it-up-as-you-go-along supersedes Robert's Rules of Order. Douglas has been telling the board that democracy applies to Brooklyn, a notion that doesn't sit well with Mayor Cook, who no longer recognizes him as village attorney and won't pay him, even though the board has approved a motion authorizing payment. She's appointed another attorney, who sits in the same meetings as Douglas but doesn't talk to him. "He's the one advising them wrong," Cook sniffs. "He's not doing anything. He never bring any law. He brings his opinion. That's the board's great white hope, I guess."

Douglas has told the board it has a right to see financial records. He's told trustees that the mayor can't make things go away by vetoing whatever she doesn't like. He's helped engineer a move to oust Chief Young. "It's been a dictatorship," Douglas says. "I just have an intense hatred for abuse of power. I would put it as a notch on my gun barrel -- a big notch -- if I can help this board make this city a straight city, operating properly in accordance with the law. It would be an accomplishment I could always point to."

It's time for another village board meeting. This time, the media have shown up. The Fox television crew and a Belleville News-Democrat reporter are in for a show.

Noting drug deals in the streets and unchecked speeding, Miller makes a motion to fire Chief Young. The motion passes unanimously. Cook vetoes it. Trustees protest that she has no such authority. Despite the impasse, a hearing is scheduled a week from now so Young can hear and answer charges against him. Trustees ask how much is left in the general fund. Zero, answers Cook. What's more, a state grant earmarked for fixing the town's remaining fire truck has been spent on payroll, she says. Shocked trustees demand immediate cuts to city services. Cook tells the audience to leave so the board can discuss personnel in executive session.

As the audience rises to leave, the News-Democrat reporter asks whether the village has advertised this executive session, as required by the state open-meetings law. Young, who stands over 6 feet tall and looks to weigh well over 275 pounds, moves in the direction of the reporter, backing her and others toward the door.

"Move out of here," he barks. "Advertise that."

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