Ex-Todd Stroger aide gets jobless pay despite corruption charge
BY LISA DONOVAN Cook County Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org
A former top Cook County official awaiting trial on public corruption charges has been collecting unemployment benefits despite her arrest, county officials confirmed Wednesday.
Former County Board President Todd Stroger approved the payments to his former deputy chief of staff Carla Oglesby before he left office — even though she had been ousted from her job after she was accused of multiple felonies for allegedly doling out no-bid, no-work county government contracts to a firm she owned and others owned by her pals.
“This was approved before we were in office,” said Jessey Neves, spokeswoman for newly elected board president Toni Preckwinkle.
County commissioners asked Stroger to fight Oglesby’s application filed with the state’s unemployment office.
County records show Oglesby collected at least $3,465 in unemployment payments in the final months of last year.
It’s unclear whether Oglesby is eligible for the benefits under state law because of her arrest.
Stroger himself applied for unemployment benefits after he lost his reelection bid, but he quickly learned he’s not eligible, as a former elected official, to collect benefits from his time as the county’s $170,000-a-year chief executive.
“That’s what I found out after applying,” Stroger said during an appearance on the Don Wade & Roma show on WLS-AM (890) Wednesday. “We don’t pay in to the system. You know I’ve been working on and off — between school — since I was 15 and I just assumed that I was paying in to the system, but it’s just the law that elected officials don’t.”
Stroger said he was “shocked’’ that his attempt at getting unemployment aid — which was first revealed in the Sun-Times — “was such a big story.” Considering the poor economy and the number of people applying for unemployment, Stroger added sarcastically: “I didn’t realize that I [would] be the sole character in the world who needed to be in the papers for like six days because he did it.”
Stroger did not address Oglesby’s situation in the interview, and he has failed to return multiple calls for comment from the Sun-Times. Oglesby also did not respond to a request for comment.
Stroger did say he’s trying to get a job with hospitals in Turkey, where he says medical procedures cost a fraction of the price American hospitals charge. He didn’t elaborate on precisely what he’d be doing for the hospitals or whether he would be moving overseas.
But he did say those hospitals provide excellent medical care at a fraction of the cost in the U.S.
“If there’s one thing I know from being with the county [it’s] that there are thousands of people who work every day and don’t have any health insurance,” he said. “I think this would be a great program for the county because it would actually save them money.”