Stroger blames scandal on racial politics

April 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) Stroger fired Dunnings last week because of her involvement with a county employee who was a convicted felon.

President Stroger, who says he plans to run for re-election next year, writes off the controversy to county board politics. And Stroger went another step and called the concern over the hiring scandal racial politics.

For the embattled county board president, the mission was damage control.

"Whenever there's a high profile person who is leaving government in the contentious atmosphere we have in the county, there's going to be a lot of questions and I've always felt, answer the questions and then move on," said Todd Stoger, Cook County board

Todd Stroger was bombarded with questions about the relationship between his cousin, former county chief financial officer Donna Dunnings, and Tony Cole, a convicted felon hired by Stroger and later promoted despite being arrested again.

Stroger, who fired Cole, then accepted Dunnings' resignation last week, says he did know beforehand that his cousin bailed Cole out of the Cook County jail a second time after Cole had been arrested for violating an order of protection.

"I knew she was going, that she was en route to help him," said Stroger.

Eugene Mullins, a retired cop who is Stroger's press secretary, says he actually accompanied Dunnings to the jail.

"I didn't go with her under the direction of the president. The president didn't know anything about that nor did Tony Cole ever call the president and tell him he was in jail," said Eugene Mullins, Stroger press secretary.

"The fact that Gene Mullins, Dunnings' p.r. person, went with him to bail Cole out, tells me there is more to it," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin, (D) Evanston.

But President Stroger says now that Dunnings and Cole no longer work for the county, his critics on the county should stop using the issue for political purposes that Stroger says have racial overtones.

"This has always been North Side versus the South and West Side," said Stroger.

When one does not have a serious defense to a serious charge you go and make it racial or make it so outrageous you are trying to demean the people who are asking legitimate questions," said Suffredin.

Suffredin and 15 other commissioners have agreed to convene a county board meeting Thursday morning where they expect President Stroger to explain what he knows about the Tony Cole hiring and the resignation of Donna Dunnings.

Suffredin says the concern is over the affect the Dunnings resignation might have on the county finances and its credit rating.

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