Cook County Chief Financial
Officer Donna Dunnings, the cousin of President Todd Stroger, resigned
abruptly this week after it was learned she had bailed a favored
employee with a criminal record out of jail several times, a county
spokesman said Friday.
The employee, Tony Cole, was hired by Stroger upon the
recommendation of Louisiana State University basketball coach Dale
Brown, said county spokesman Sean Howard.
"I hired a young man who I thought was very bright and
he told me he just needed a chance and he could do a lot," said Stroger
Friday morning on WLS-AM radio. "And I thought we'd give him that
According to a media report, the county knew of a 2002
charge of aggravated assault with intent to rape in Georgia when it
hired Cole. The charge was eventually dropped, but it resulted in Cole
being kicked off the University of Georgia basketball team. Cole,
however, had not told the county of a Georgia conviction for writing
bad checks. Because he didn't disclose that, spokesmen told the Chicago
Sun-Times, he was fired last week from his $61,000 a year human
resources job in the highway department.
Before that, Cole had worked as an administrative assistant to Dunnings.
"He had some personal problems that developed while he
was on the job," Stroger told WLS. "An investigation was done and
determined that he had not been quite truthful on his application, so
he had to be terminated. So I fired him. Now it seems he as if he is
making allegations against Ms. Dunnings, all of which she tells me are
not true. But being in the position she is, it will become a bit of a
media circus and I don't think she will be able to perform her duties
while trying to fight off not only just the (news)papers - but even the
politicians on the board who love to make political hay of anything
Stroger said he asked for Dunnings resignation, and she agreed.
Stroger did not elaborate on what claims Cole is making
against Dunnings, but asked about her bailing Cole out of jail, Stroger
told WLS, "I believe that she wanted to see him do well and she was
trying to mentor him."
What exactly led to the 2008 charges requiring the bail
was not immediately clear, but court records indicate they were related
to orders of protection issued against Cole in DuPage County.
Cole, Dunnings and Stroger could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dunnings had long been a controversial figure in Cook
County, if only for her familial relationship to the president. Several
county officials privately refer to her as the power behind the throne
and had been at odds with Stroger's former chief of staff, Lance Tyson,
and a source in Cook County government said she was currently warring
with the head of Stroger's public relations staff, Gene Mullins.
Stroger's current chief of staff, Joseph Fratto, has
been named to temporarily fill the CFO job until a replacement can be