Last week may have been a rough one for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, but this one is shaping up to be worse.
According to several reports, the Cook County State's Attorney's office has opened an investigation into the scandal surrounding the hiring of patronage worker Tony Cole and the firing of Donna Dunnings, Stroger's cousin and former chief financial officer.
Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez,
declined to comment on whether an investigation has been opened.
"We are not in a position to confirm or deny that," Daly told the Huffington Post.
Laura Lechowicz Felicione, a lawyer for Stroger, confirmed that the
county had received subpoenas when asked whether there had been
inquiries involving Tony Cole, the Tribune reports.
A Stroger spokesman confirmed to the Daily Herald
that the administration received subpoenas from the state's attorney's
office, but refused to "comment on an ongoing investigation."
Last week Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin called for state and federal probes into the hiring and firing scandal.
In a jailhouse interview with the Sun-Times Monday,
Cole said he has been questioned by a Cook County assistant state's
attorney in the financial crimes division and has received a subpoena
to appear before a grand jury.
"They wanted information about the two people. You know, they said
if I talked to them, this whole thing could go away," Cole told the Sun-Times
The controversy revolves around what Stroger knew about Cole's criminal background and his two arrests while working for the county, when he knew it, and why he fired Dunnings.
Stroger hired Cole, a former basketball star turned steakhouse
busboy with a lengthy rap sheet that included a felony conviction, and
gave him a job working for Dunnings as an administrative assistant.
Then he fired Dunnings after it came to light that she twice bailed
Cole out of jail using her personal credit card. That $4,000 Dunnings
spent to get Cole out of jail may go toward paying Cole's legal bills the Tribune reports.
Last week the Tribune revealed
that Stroger's version of the events leading up to Cole's firing were
not consistent with the records of the Illinois State Police. Stroger
said he his office did not receive the results of Cole's background
check until April, while the state police said it mailed the results to
the county board in December.
Why he fired Dunnings also remains unclear, as Stroger has given varying explanations for it.
he said fired her "for her own good" and to protect her from his
opponents on the county board, even though she had "done nothing wrong."
Then Stroger claimed he wasn't really firing her -- she had been
looking for a new job already and together the two decided it was time
for her to move on. But that didn't square with Dunnings telling the Sun-Times she was "shocked" by her firing.
Stroger and Dunnings both have denied reports that Cole and Dunnings were romantically involved.
Now it appears Cole, who is being held in Cook County jail for
purportedly violating conditions of a restraining order, is ready to
talk -- at least about some things.
He told the Sun-Times he believes he's being kept in jail to prevent him from releasing damaging information and wants help from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"I'm in here on $200,000 [bond] for a misdemeanor," Cole said,
suggesting that the bond amount was unusually high in order to keep him
in jail. Cole had previously told the Sun-Times that he called Stroger to bail him out of jail, a claim Stroger denies.
Meanwhile, the Tribune reports
that not only did Cole lie on his county job application he also lied
to federal housing officials, saying he was an unemployed Hurricane
Katrina evacuee in order to get his $720 a month rent covered by
Before he was fired April 10, Cole was making $61,000 a year in his
job as human-relations director for the county highway department.