Cook County residents have had a wild ride in recent years, dealing with a county tax hike, budget troubles, service cuts and Todd Stroger.

But the top bodyguard for Stroger’s successor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, had his own wild ride the other day: he crashed an unmarked county squad car while preparing for the next morning’s politician pick-up.

Delwin Gadlen is the Cook County sheriff’s cop serving as Preckwinkle’s director of security. If his name sounds familiar it’s probably because we wrote about him last year after Preckwinkle gave him and two others on her security detail pay hikes totaling $33,000, even though they hadn’t been on the job long and the county’s finances were shaky. And Gadlen, who is paid more than $100,000 a year, was a volunteer for Preckwinkle’s campaign.

A police report indicates Gadlen, driving a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria, swerved to avoid a vehicle that blew a stop sign at 95th and Oglesby a couple of weekends back at about 8:30 p.m. His squad was then rear-ended by a third vehicle, and forced into a light pole. The county vehicle suffered “significant damage,” but nobody was seriously hurt, according to Preckwinkle’s spokeswoman, Jessey Neves.

The driver that caused everything kept going, the police report indicated.

Preckwinkle wasn’t in the car, but an off-duty Chicago cop was.

Gadlen had been headed to a garage to “check on the maintenance” of Preckwinkle’s main county ride, an SUV, which had been experiencing problems of its own, Neves said.

Speaking of cars…

We already know Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel gets carted around in a municipal vehicle driven by cops, as did his predecessor.

But we got to thinking, who else in the mayor’s office gets a city vehicle assigned to them, without a driver but with take-home privileges?

Just one person, it turns out: Emanuel’s $175,000-a-year chief of staff, Theresa Mintle, according to documents we requested under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Mintle, however, lives downtown, a quick bus ride or healthy hoof from City Hall. Does she really need a car paid for by taxpayers?

“The Chief of Staff is responsible for coordinating with the City’s chief executive and managing the day-to-day operations of all City departments,” Chicago Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew wrote via email. “The position of Chief of Staff requires long hours and availability at all times, and it is standard protocol for the Chief of Staff to have an assigned vehicle.”

Records show Mintle, a cousin of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, is assigned a 2008 Ford Escape.

On a zing and a prayer

The BGA and FOX Chicago recently reported a story on how a veteran investigator for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office spends his days: puffing away at cigars at a Bridgeport shop while he’s supposed to be working on behalf of taxpayers.

During the reporting process, we also got a feel for how reputed mob figure Bruno Caruso spends his day: at church.

We called Caruso because we were told he frequents the same cigar shop as the investigator, and we wanted to know whether they were pals. Because if they were, not so good. Cops and reputed hoodlums shouldn’t mix.

Anyway, we tracked down Caruso’s cell number and gave him a call.

“I don’t know a Bob Thomas,” he relayed. “It doesn’t ring a bell with me – not at all . . . . You’re probably burning oil on old innuendos. I’ve given up cigars, probably seven years . . . when I figured out I had a little mouth problem.”

Then he mentioned where he was: at church, praying the rosary. It was mid-day on a weekday, and we let out a little chuckle, thinking Caruso was pulling our leg.

“I’m not bulls——- you,” he retorted.

Oops, sorry, we replied, imagining a nun giving him a thump for cursing in the pews.

Caruso, a former city employee and union official known for a sense of humor, then admonished the reporter to be accurate and fair in how he’s quoted.

He advised wryly: “I’ve got a witness here: Jesus Christ.”

Pores when it snows?

Companies owned by City of Chicago employees aren’t supposed to get city contracts. But, as we detailed this week, that rule hasn’t been greatly enforced, evidenced by a Chicago Fire Department battalion chief securing snowplowing contracts through neighborhood entities called “special service areas” that levy extra property taxes to pay for capital improvements and maintenance.

We just fielded another tip about another city worker, Dan Olsen of the city’s Water Management Department, and a landscaping and snowplowing company called Olsen Inc.

The company also contracts through these special taxing districts.

We talked to Dan Olsen and he insisted it’s his wife’s company and he has nothing to do with it. If true, the Board of Ethics probably would not consider this a conflict of interest.

But . . . we’re told by several people that Olsen, while not on the ownership documents, has solicited colleagues to work for the business to make some extra dough during winter.

Whatever the case, city officials said they’re taking a deeper look at businesses getting tax money through the city to ensure the rules are being followed.