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Cook County's official bird?
FLIPPING OUT | Dunnings' 'joke' draws little laughter from the target of wayward finger

Saturday, January 17, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mark J. Konkol

Call it a Mike Ditka moment.

Cook County Chief Financial Officer Donna Dunnings made an obscene gesture -- displaying her middle finger -- to the Sheriff's Department's budget director during a meeting in the County Board room this week.

Dunnings, who is President Todd Stroger's cousin, was walking to the dais during budget amendment discussions Thursday when she paused to flip off Alexis Herrera, who had previously worked for Dunnings.

"It was a joke," Dunnings said. "I was teasing with a former employee. We tease all the time. If someone thinks it's more than that, f--- 'em."

Herrera refused to comment publicly -- but apparently she wasn't amused.

The incident followed a tense discussion in the hallway behind the board room over a proposed budget amendment. The conversation involving Dunnings, Herrera and Sheriff Tom Dart's undersheriff, Zelda Whittler, was peppered with profanity and finger-pointing by Dunnings, sources said.

Dunnings said she did not raise her voice and was simply clarifying the budget dispute, which later was resolved.

"It was a clarification. No one was arguing with anybody. We are all getting along," Dunnings said. "There was a dispute. It got resolved."

But Dunnings' gesture was deemed serious enough that the sheriff's staff held a meeting to discuss it Friday. After that meeting, Dart spokesman Steve Patterson issued this statement: "Every budget process has its share of heated conversations, incidents or confrontations where things are said or done that people often regret later. This is no different. There was a disagreement regarding the budget, and it was resolved."

Dunnings said the incident got overblown because she's related to Stroger.

"As much as people try to make me an ogre, I'm not that at all," Dunnings said. "I just want best for administration and county of Cook. They can say what they want about me. I bust my ass in this job. ... Write what you want. I don't care anymore."



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