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Stroger's controversial hiring picks OKd

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County commissioners Wednesday approved Board President Todd Stroger's controversial selection of his cousin and the wife of a close friend for high-level positions.

The board's Legislative, Intergovernmental & Veterans Relations Committee voted 10-6 to approve Donna Dunnings, who is Stroger's first cousin, as the county's chief financial officer.
All of the county commissioners serve on the committee so the appointments are virtually assured when they go before the board at its next regular meeting May 15.

The committee also approved Carmen Triche-Colvin as the county's next purchasing agent. Colvin, 44, is the wife of state Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago), Stroger's friend since childhood.

Asked what she would tell naysayers who have raised concerns about nepotism, Dunnings said, "Off the cuff, get a life. Secondly, look at my credentials."

Dunnings, 42, holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. She has worked for the county for 20 years, the last eight as deputy chief financial officer and then as budget director.

Dunnings said she will retain her budget director's salary of $142,000 rather take a pay increase because of the difficult financial situation the county is facing. Former CFO Thomas Glaser made $152,000.

Dunnings' supporters on the board said she should be approved based upon her qualifications.

"This is not really about you," Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) told Dunnings. "This about some folks who would do anything to bring down this administration. You just happen to be one of the folks sitting in the box."

The board's five Republicans and Chicago Democrat Forrest Claypool voted against Dunnings' appointment.

Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) said he believed Dunnings' appointment was a violation of the county's ethics ordinance because they are related. Stroger disagreed.

"If it was [a violation] then I wouldn't put it out there," Stroger said. "I think that she'll do a good job because she knows government, she cares about government and she's not one to fail. I've never seen her fail."

Also advanced were the nominations of Joseph Fratto as county comptroller and Mark Kilgallon as chief administrative officer. Kilgallon most recently served as the county's human resources chief, and he told commissioners that federal prosecutors have informed him that he is not a target of the government's ongoing investigation into potential hiring abuses.

"This is a team that I think will help the county move and move well," Stroger said. "And I'm just glad that commissioners think that they will do a good job in their positions."

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