Former Cook Co. employee speaks out

June 16, 2009 4:27:18 PM PDT
The man at the center of a controversy involving Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is a free man.Stroger hired Tony Cole for an administrative job but he was later fired for allegedly lying about his criminal record.

On Tuesday, Cole talked about why he thinks he was fired and his relationship with Stroger.

"He wasn't my father. He wasn't my dad he just gave me an opportunity," said Cole.

A tearful Tony Cole is talking about the man who fired him, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. Cole had a difficult time explaining to reporters his relationship with Stroger, only to show emails exchanged between the two where the tone was more of Stroger as a mentor.

Cole met Stroger at a downtown steakhouse where Cole was a bus boy. Stroger then hired Cole as a county employee where he eventually made over $60,000 a year.

But Cole was fired after it was learned that he lied about his criminal history on his job application. Cole claims he was truthful. He's only been convicted of a misdemeanor, not a felony.

"I didn't lie. Everything is factual that you have in your hands," told reporters on Tuesday.

Armed with documents, Cole believes he was fired for exposing wrongdoing within the county.

Cole does not blame Stroger or Donna Dunnings, the Stroger cousin who was fired from her job as the county chief financial officer. Dunnings bailed Cole out twice from jail for alleged restraining order violations. Cole says he has not talked to Stroger or Dunnings since he worked for the county.

"I don't really trust anyone because if you tell me someone you're going to have to prove it to yourself so I can only hold myself accountable," said Cole.

Cole was released from jail on Monday after his bail was reduced for probation violations. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that he was getting paid by the county while he was behind bars and that Donna Dunnings signed off on time cards that for time Cole didn't work. Cole denies it but county commissioners want more answers.

"We really want to get to the bottom of the situation," said Peter Silvestri, county commissioner.

"I think it's been clear for a long time that President Stroger has not told the whole story and it's dribbling out gradually," said Forrest Claypool, county commissioner.

Commissioner Forrest Claypool believes it is time for Todd Stroger to come clean about the entire Tony Cole and Donna Dunnings controversy.

After Cole was released from jail on Monday, he promised reporters "explosive allegations" that led Stroger to fire Dunnings. On Tuesday, Cole could not fulfill his promise. He could not say why Dunnings was fired.


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