Sheriff's dept. investigates harassing calls aimed at Sims

September 3, 2009 (CHICAGO) Deborah Sims says she received the racially charged calls after switching her vote on a partial rollback of the county sales tax.

The calls were recorded and Sims shared them with the media on Thursday.

A short time after hearing the racist phone messages Cook County commissioner Deborah Sims was surrounded by ministers and activists to condemn them.

The calls came in Wednesday evening to the answering machine in Sims' county board office. The two calls sounded like they came from the same man who used profanity and racist vulgarity while denouncing her vote Tuesday to uphold the county's current sales tax rate.

"You won't repeal the tax, I hope you die from [expletive] AIDS. You [expletive] fat, n-word [expletives]," said the caller.

"In this day and time, when people are still sending those kind of messages. Where is this country going?" said Sims.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Deborah Sims, who earlier opposed a sales tax hike, changed sides and cast the deciding vote against repealing the hike. She said losing the tax revenue could cause the county to close health clinics in her district.

Voting with her were Commissioners William Beavers, Jerry Butler and Joseph Mario Mareno. But she was the only one who changed positions from her earlier vote.

Many of her constituents were disappointed but based their disagreement on politics, not race.

"Changing your mind at the last minute always looks suspicious, like somebody got to you, but I can't say that for sure," said Geofrey Lewis, voter.

Board president Todd Stroger offered Sims his support in the wake of the phone messages, saying in a statement, "Commissioner Sims has my wholehearted support and appreciation not just for the courageous vote she took on Tuesday but in any and all efforts to secure her safety and wellbeing from those who threaten harm to her for her actions."

"We stand with Deborah Sims. We don't appreciate this racism being raised its ugly head in a nation where the president is an African-American," said Rev. Walter Turner.

The sheriff's department stops short of describing these calls as threats. But investigators will attempt to trace the identity of the caller on these messages. They have not said what if any crime the caller could be charged with.

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