County worker collected salary while he was jailed
Monday, June 15, 2009
by Mark J. Konkol
If a guy's got clout in Cook County, getting tossed in the hoosegow could be like a paid vacation.
Cole, the busboy- turned-patronage worker at the center of a county
hiring scandal, apparently had that kind of clout in the finance
department, according to payroll records obtained by the Chicago
president Todd Stroger's cousin, former chief financial officer Donna
Dunnings, gave her former secretary paid time off that he did not earn
for workdays he was locked in county jail. Dunnings also signed time
cards that claimed Cole worked weekends that he did not show up at the
office, county records show.
Cole got his county job after a night pouring Stroger icewater at a
River North steakhouse. Stroger later fired Cole for lying about his
criminal past on a job application.
Dunnings -- whom Stroger fired over her dealings with Cole without
giving specifics -- signed off on three "excused" absences with pay for
Cole during his stint in county jail between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21 for
violating orders of protection against an ex-girlfriend, according to
Cole's time records.
On Nov. 21, Dunnings used her personal credit cards to bail out
Cole, who said he promised to pay her back as soon as he got paid.
Dunnings also signed off on time cards that report Cole worked 14 hours the weekend of Nov. 22.
But security records kept by the sheriff's department said Cole was
in the county building at 118 N. Clark for only four hours and 20
minutes that weekend.
Dunnings bailed Cole out of jail a second time Jan. 23 -- the same day Cole got comp day off "per D. Dunnings," records show.
On Jan. 25, the Sunday after Cole was released from jail, Dunnings
signed a time card that reported Cole worked four hours. But Cole did
not sign in at the county building that day, sheriff's department
Dunnings would not comment on the excused absences, but said Cole earned the comp days off by working extra hours.
When told county time sheets did not show evidence that Cole worked
enough extra hours to warrant receiving that much comp time, Dunnings
said a "time keeper" kept track of comp time hours and she just signed
off on the time sheets.
A county source close to the situation said Cole was the office time keeper.
Stroger spokesman Eugene Mullins said he's not sure if Cole was
assigned to keep his own time records, but the county does not condone
giving employees excused absences with pay that are not due them.
"The county does not have a policy to pay money to employees for pay they have not earned," Mullins said.
The Sun-Times obtained Cole's time records through a Freedom of
Information Act request. The Stroger administration, however, has
refused to release other county records requested by the paper because
an "investigating body" directed the county in writing not to release
the information, Stroger's special counsel Laura Lechowicz Felicione
Sources have confirmed that the Cook County state's attorney's
office financial crimes unit has launched a probe into the Dunnings-
Cole, who remains in county jail and is due in domestic violence
court today, said an assistant states attorney in the financial crimes
division visited him in jail and he received a grand jury subpoena.
Cole also told the Sun-Times an FBI agent -- confirmed as an
investigator from the Chicago field office -- has visited him in jail
several times and as recently as last week to ask questions about
Dunnings and Stroger and any information Cole might have about county