Stroger cousin resigns as Cook Co. CFO

April 17, 2009 3:02:12 PM PDT
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has asked for and received the resignation of Donna Dunnings, the county's chief financial officer and Stroger's first cousin. Stroger caused a controversy when he hired Dunnings more than two years ago.

Now Commissioner Larry Sufferdin is asking for Stroger's resignation. He called Stroger's leadership lacking and this hire another example of patronage in a letter that went out late Friday afternoon.

Stroger said in a radio interview Friday morning he was forced to ask for Dunnings' resignation. He claims the allegations against her would make it impossible for Dunnings to do her job.

"Whoever we find surely won't bring the history that Ms. Dunnings had, and I doubt if they will also have the academic pedigree that she had," Stroger said to Don & Roma on WLS-AM.

The story of the scandal begins with a young man named Tony Cole.

According the county's spokesman, Stroger met Cole at a local restaurant and Cole was recommended by former LSU Basketball Coach Dale Brown.

Cole was hired in November, but fired last week when Stroger says they found evidence that he had lied about a felony conviction on his application.

"He had some personal problems while on the job. An investigation was done and determined that he had not been quite truthful on his application. He had to be terminated, so I fired him," Stroger said.

Adding to the drama, according to the county's spokesman, Dunnings apparently tried to help Cole by bailing him out of jail after an arrest.

"Being in the position she is, it will be a bit of a media circus. I don't think she'll be able to do her duties while trying to fight off the papers," Stroger said.

Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica says he's outraged by the oversight in hiring Cole.

"I Googled his name and found pages of questionable conduct, criminal history, and I wondered why wasn't someone looking at hiring him looking at the same things," Peraica said.

A letter about Cole's history was sent to Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy two weeks ago.

Commissioner Murphy said she turned over the letter to county administrators and is sorry to see Dunnings leave.

"It's upsetting when what you do in your personal life upsets your public role. It's just unfortunate that this had to happen," Murphy said.

It's also been reported that Tony Cole is in custody following a parole violation, and actually appeared in court Friday.

He also reportedly claimed to be an out of work victim of Hurricane Katrina and has been receiving full rent and utilities benefits for over a year.

That's something the federal government will have to look into. For now Cook County government is scrambling for footing after this latest scandal.


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