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Stroger cousin resigns from top county post

Friday, April 17, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Jeremy Gorner

Donna Dunnings, a first cousin of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, resigned as the county's chief financial officer amid controversy over a recently fired patronage worker, Stroger announced today.

Stroger asked for Dunnings' resignation and she agreed because of allegations that would hurt her ability to do her job, Stroger told the Tribune this morning in a telephone interview. Dunnings could not immediately be reached this morning.

Stroger spoke with WGN-AM this morning. Listen to the interview here.

Stroger declined to elaborate on the allegations, but said they were made by a man who was given a patronage job with Stroger's administration late last year. Stroger fired the man after learning he had a felony criminal conviction, said Sean Howard, a Stroger spokesman. 

The man then made "explosive" and "not flattering" allegations against Dunnings, Stroger said. In the WGN-AM interview, Stroger said he did not know the details of the allegations, but said he believes "she has done nothing wrong."

Stroger said he could not provide details of the relationship between the man and Dunnings, but said she has bailed the man out of jail several times over a monthslong span.
 
"I know Ms. Dunnings well.  I know she has always tried to reach out and help people whenever she could," Stroger said.  "He [the man] is trying to destroy people."
 
Stroger's father, the late board president John Stroger, made Dunnings a top county finance official in 1999. Critics leveled a new round of nepotism accusations when Todd Stroger promoted Dunnings, who holds an MBA from Northwestern University, to become the county's chief financial officer.
 
She has faced criticism along with her cousin for assisting in his successful push to more than double the county sales tax. When critics attacked her pay increase to $159,868 after the 2008 tax increase, Dunnings questioned why they were so concerned about the salary of the county's first female, African-American CFO.
 
Former Cook County Comptroller and current administration chief of staff Joseph Fratto will assume the responsibilities of chief financial officer, according to a statement released by Stroger's office.


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