Todd Stroger Likes His Friends, and His Family More

Less than one month ago, Cook County government was struggling, facing a February 29th shut-down. Now, they’re swimming in it, and Stroger has money to give away.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Stroger’s cousin, Donna Dunnings, will get a 12 percent pay increase as part of the 2008 budget.

How nice.

When Cook County Board President Todd Stroger introduced his cousin Donna Dunnings as the county’s new chief financial officer last year, they each boasted of the savings taxpayers would realize. She would take a salary far less than the previous CFO.

That was then.

Records show Dunnings is set to get a bigger raise than any other county employee in Stroger’s budget — a 12 percent increase — as part of the 2008 budget.

The average county raise is about 5 percent for most employees, records show. Those working in Dunnings’ office will get, on average 3.5 percent raises.

Dunnings will make about $5,000 more than Tom Glaser did in that same job, earning almost $160,000. Why the giant leap?

Dunnings’ double-digit jump is because “she’s doing twice the work she was before and has more responsibilities,” said Stroger spokesman Gene Mullins.

“She only took [less pay] when we didn’t have any money,” he said, referring to the just-passed 1 percentage point sales tax increase that is so substantial, it will ultimately give county government more money than it needs to operate.

In fighting for that tax, Stroger repeatedly asked taxpayers and commissioners to make sacrifices for the good of county government.

Stroger spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi later said Dunnings initially took the lower salary “because of her commitment to the county and public service.”

Since then, however, Dunnings’ performance “warranted” the large raise, Antongiorgi said, and brings her more in line with other county CFOs.

Well, good for her. I wouldn’t want to see Dunnings show up at county CFO parties with her head down.

Right.

March roared in like a lion with the Cook County board, and Todd Stroger is taking the lion’s share for those close to him. The 1 percent increase gave Chicago the distinction of having the highest overall sales tax of any major U.S. city: 10.25 percent. Meanwhile, the hundreds of county employees laid off last year “when we didn’t have any money” have yet to be called back.

Because Todd Stroger likes his friends, and his family more.