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County computer guru out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

The top information technology official for Cook County made a sudden departure over the weekend, prompting speculation about whether board President Todd Stroger will hire another politician's relative into a high-paying job.

With Catherine Maras O'Leary gone, county tongues were wagging Monday over whether she'd be replaced by one of her top deputies, Valerie Holden.

Holden -- sister to Commissioner Robert Steele and daughter of former commissioner and interim board president Bobbie Steele -- is the highest-paid official in the county's bureau of information technology after Maras O'Leary, earning $125,000 in 2007, according to budget documents.

Holden was the "information security officer" at Stroger Hospital, making $86,203 a year, until her recent transfer to her new post as "program manager," one of only two people working directly under Maras O'Leary.

Stroger said he'll be interviewing for Maras O'Leary's replacement. He ridiculed the idea of giving Holden the job, but did not rule it out.

"I just got in the building 10 minutes ago, so I hadn't heard the rumor yet," Stroger told a reporter. "So you just filled me in; thank you."

Stroger has yet to get final board approval for his choice of chief finance officer -- his cousin Donna Dunnings -- and county purchasing agent, Carmen Triche-Colvin, wife of Stroger's close friend and ally, state Rep. Marlow Colvin. Both face a tough confirmation battle.

Maras O'Leary is sister to Cook County Circuit Judge Marcia Maras, who was former Cook County Assessor Tom Hynes' chief of staff. Sources in Stroger's administration say she was shown the door because top officials were unhappy with her performance.

But Stroger and Maras O'Leary both said it was a mutual decision for her to leave, not a firing.

"It was a meeting of the minds," Stroger said Monday. "It was time that we looked in a new direction, that's all."

Maras O'Leary, reached at home, described it as a "fresh start for everybody," and said she has "nothing but positive things to say about the Stroger family."

Mary Jo Horace, head of the department of office technology, is acting head of the bureau of information technology and automation, Stroger spokesman Andre Garner said.

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