Todd Stroger Unemployment: Former County Board President Defends Seeking Jobless Benefits

04/05/2011 04:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2011

Former Cook County Board President gained a reputation for misappropriation of county funds, from using government credit cards for dry cleaning to buying swanky new furniture for his offices on the public dime.

So it was surprising and, at the same time, not all that surprising when news reports surfaced in early March that Stroger, who lost election to Toni Preckwinkle last February, was applying for unemployment benefits.

Of course, the salaries of elected officials don't qualify for unemployment benefits, and Stroger wasn't allowed to collect.

But he told WBEZ in an interview Tuesday that he defended the decision to apply for the benefits.

"I could have decided, 'You know what? I've lost an election ... I'm not going back to work. I'm gonna do whatever I want,'" Stroger said. "But I decided that [public office] is important to me. I don't think it's wrong for someone who's a full-time person to ever ask for unemployment, even if they're elected."

Had Stroger been eligible for the benefits, he would have won over $500 a week from the state, the equivalent of a $25,000-a-year salary.

He's presently working as a consultant for a health care company.