County Official Resigns Over Facebook Posts

<p>High-ranking aide to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez quits over Facebook remarks, some critiquing the physical appearance of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.</p>

The same day Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez released an Internet ad formally launching her reelection bid, word came that one of her top deputies resigned over his Internet activity – crass Facebook comments he made about Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others.

Daniel Gallagher, the $153,000-a-year chief of the state’s attorney’s civil actions bureau until he quit over the weekend following questions from the Better Government Association and FOX Chicago, posted a Facebook comment on a photo of the First Lady meeting Pope Francis in September. Referring to her weight and appearance, Gallagher wrote, "I think Moosechelle was hiding a secret service agent in the seat of her dress."

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Commenting on an article that accompanied a photo of Clinton, who is running for president, Gallagher wrote on Facebook, "As Eddie Murphy would say, ‘Da bitch ugly!’"

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On a Facebook link about Sharpton, a black minister, activist and commentator, Gallagher posted a comment that read, "Sounds like Black privilege to me."

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Gallagher posted a number of other stinging comments, including one that called the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a South Side priest and anti-violence activist, a "pfraud."

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Some of Gallagher’s posts were time stamped during regular work hours, but Alvarez press secretary Sally Daly said she didn’t know whether he was on the clock.

"Without further investigation we are unable to determine when the posts were made or if they were made from a personal device," Daly said via email. "Gallagher’s resignation makes this a moot point."

Daly didn’t say whether Gallagher violated county rules restricting personal Web activity at work, though she said the agency "does have an Internet policy under which Gallagher would have been expected to be in compliance with."

Alvarez’s office released a written statement Tuesday, saying, "We only became aware of Mr. Gallagher’s posts on his personal Facebook page when we were contacted by a reporter late last week. In light of the troubling and inappropriate nature of these comments, Mr. Gallagher tendered and the State’s Attorney accepted his resignation this past weekend."

 

Reached by the BGA/FOX, Gallagher confirmed the Facebook posts were his and, on occasion, that he’s been on the social media site while on the clock for county government. He said he regretted some of his words, saying of the Michelle Obama remark, "I probably shouldn’t have done that."

But he also emphasized he had a right to free speech.

"There’s nothing in any of those comments . . . that have anything to do with my office," Gallagher said.

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As head of the civil bureau, Gallagher was one of the highest-paid and highest-ranking Alvarez aides. He oversaw roughly 120 attorneys who handle county-related lawsuits, represent county agencies and provide advice to the County Board, with whom Gallagher worked directly.

Shown printouts of Gallagher’s Facebook remarks about the First Lady and others, Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele (D-Chicago) said before learning of the resignation, "There has to be a termination. . . . He’s not going to be the lawyer representing us on that County Board seat."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is backing a former aide against Alvarez in the upcoming primary election, said in a written statement, "If, in fact, this is the Dan Gallagher who works in the State’s Attorney’s office, I find many of these posts to be insulting and reprehensible. If this is true, I do not want him on the podium with me."

Gallagher was hired by Alvarez in 2014. Before that he worked for years at the Chicago law firm that also once employed First Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Kirk.

Gallagher donated more than $13,000 to Alvarez’s campaign fund starting in 2007, state records show. Gallagher said politics doesn’t drive any decision making in the office.

Gallagher is Facebook "friends" with Alvarez, Kirk and Daly, though that doesn’t mean they saw Gallagher’s posts.