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Every Man for Himself at Metra

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 18, 2011 9:35PM

Photo by tripp...
Last week we linked to reports on the $3 million and counting Metra spent on investigating the finances of former chairman Phil Pagano. today Crain's Greg Hinz takes a look at the territorial pissings happening as various Metra board members and their sponsors try to position themselves to succeed outgoing chairwoman Carole Doris. It's a doozy of a read that makes one wonder how Metra's board manages to take the time to make sure trains are on the tracks and running, they're so busy protecting their turf and blocking each other.

Hinz starts by stating that Doris didn't resign as much as she was forced out.

Numerous sources report that DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin told Ms. Doris she would not be reappointed to the board. And if you're not on the board, you can't serve as chair.

Mr. Cronin has good reason to want change at Metra, and by no means is he the only person who wants to replace all of those who were there as Mr. Pagano manipulated staff, board and books alike to grab hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation he was not entitled to.

In Springfield, state Sens. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, and Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, have pushed legislation to fire all of those who served on the board during the Pagano era.

That legislation is currently stalled. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle held a conference call with her collar county counterparts to negotiate a no-reappointment pact. Soon as that happened, some county commissioners saw that as an opportunity. Per Hinz, once again.

[The no-reappointment pact is] of interest because suburban Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman says she's now inclined to reappoint her Metra board member, Jim Dodge, who also happens to be a candidate for Metra chair.

"The collar counties have had the chairmanship of Metra forever," Ms. Gorman said. It wouldn't be right to blame Mr. Dodge, one board member, for Mr. Pagano's sins, she adds.

Statements like that only will boost conspiracy talk among some suburban Republicans that Cook County Democrats — Ms. Gorman is a Republican but has reason to make nice with Ms. Preckwinkle, a Democrat — are trying to get their hands on an agency that largely serves suburbanites.

Even some Democrats seem to buy into the Cook County conspiracy talk.

"If Preckwinkle thinks she's going to get (the Metra board) packed, it ain't gonna happen," said senator Mr. Link, who "suspects" that Ms. Gorman is doing Ms. Preckwinkle's bidding on the Dodge reappointment."

Dodge, by the way, lost to Judy Baar Topinka in last year's Republican comptroller primary. One of the donors to his campaign was Christopher B. Burke Engineering, which does business with Metra to the tune of a $250,000 contract.

Metra has until August to appoint a new chairman and we wouldn't be shocked if some of these folks challenged each other to a duel in order to sort it out.