Introduction: If you are out of work or struggling to stay on time with your bills, you are definitely not going to like this story.
This time last year Tony Cole was a bus boy making about $10 an hour. Currently, he is out of work. In between then though, he has travelled an employment road very few will travel. In November last year, he was offered an administrative assistant position with the Cook County government. That job paid about $48,000 a year. He was then the administrative assistant for the Chief Financial Officer of Cook County, Donna Dunnings. Dunnings is the cousin of Todd Stroger, President of Cook County. ( I would be remissed if I didn't remind everyone that President Obama endorsed Stroger for this post in 2006) Stroger raised some eye brows when he appointed his cousing to the six figure position of CFO but then again, in Cook County, the eye brows were relatively low.
Within weeks of moving into the County Government, Cole received a pay raise to nearly $60,000 a year. Then, on February 1, 2009, he was promoted into the human resources department of the Highway Department. He also received another small pay raise to just over $61,000 a year.
The story only begins there. In November 20th of 2008, Cole was arrested and bailed out of jail by Eugene Millins, a childhood friend of Stroger's. The credit card of Donna Dunnings was used to bail him out. That same day, the FBI finished a background check that they faxed to the County. It listed to prior criminal convictions by Cole that he didn't list on his application. Then, the State Police finished their on February 20th and also sent that to the County. Then, about a month after this Dunnings again bailed Cole out of jail on another arrest.
Yet, only two weeks ago, when the inspector general completed his report, did Stroger finally fire Cole. When the story caught on, he also fired his cousin. In the meantime, Stroger can't seem to keep his story straight. He has insisted that he only recently found out about the criminal background check even though multiple agencies claim they informed him months ago. He also claims he only knew about one arrest even though his own cousin bailed out Cole.
All is not lost here. I am happy to report that this story is on the top half of page one of the Chicago Tribune today. The Trib is taking this seriously. Furthermore, the Tribune has been keeping a running clock until the primary in February of 2010 following the sales tax increase. They have definitely put Stroger in their cross hairs and have decided to take him on and they won't bury any of his misdeeds deep in their newspaper.
There is some cynicism here as well. Stroger isn't merely corrupt but a buffoon. To take him on is to pick the easy target. The same Tribune is loathe to report on too much corruption by the likes of Richard M. Daley. That's because Daley is extremely shrewd as well as corrupt. Taking on Stroger is all good and well, but to take on corruption, the media must take on all its forms and not simply pick and choose the easiest target.
Please check out my new books, "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall" and also, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers"