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Stroger patronage figure released on bond

Monday, June 15, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Ofelia Casillas and Matthew Walberg

The former steakhouse busboy hired by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger to a $61,000-a-year job was released on bond today, officials said.

Tony Cole faces charges of violating orders of protection secured by his former girlfriend, who is pregnant.

Cole sprinted out of Cook County Jail shortly before 6 p.m. and jumped onto a CTA bus. He declined comment when a Tribune reporter questioned him on the bus.

Three sheriff's officers stood behind Cole earlier today as a judge lowered his bond to $40,000 on the charges, according to his lawyer, Peter Bormes. The bond had been increased to $200,000 in April after probation officers testified that Cole had violated home confinement rules.

Cole has been held in Cook County Jail since April 14. He is scheduled to go on trial on July 14.

The hiring of Cole, a former college basketball star with a short resume and lengthy rap sheet, sparked a patronage controversy that led Stroger to fire a cousin, Donna Dunnings, from her job as the county's chief financial officer.

Dunnings bailed Cole out of jail twice for alleged misdemeanor domestic restraining order violations.

Cole was working as a busboy at a River North steakhouse, where he met Stroger. In October, Stroger hired Cole for an administrative job paying about $48,000 a year, and in February promoted Cole to a $61,000-a-year human relations job.

Cole was working as an assistant to Dunnings when she twice bailed him out of jail, posting $4,000.

On April 9, Stroger fired Cole after media inquiries about Cole's criminal past, which included convictions for battery, disorderly conduct and writing a bad check. Stroger said he took the action after learning that Cole had lied about his criminal history on his job application.

On April 16, Stroger forced Dunnings' resignation after media inquiries about her bailing Cole out of jail.

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