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Metra CEO Resigns With $442,000 Buyout

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 21, 2013 7:45PM

Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford
Alex Clifford, who was hired by Metra as its chief operating officer two years ago with a mandate to reform the suburban rail agency, resigned Friday afternoon after accepting a buyout of his contract.

Clifford was hired in February 2011 after Metra’s previous CEO, Phil Pagano, committed suicide in 2010 amid investigations he received $475,000 in unearned vacation pay. He came to Metra from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority with an extensive resume and was charged with moving Metra forward after the Pagano scandal on a platform of transparency. But Metra’s politically appointed board of directors put up resistance to Clifford almost from the moment he was hired and his resignation had been expected for months.

Metra chairman Brad O’Halloran, who led the charge against Clifford after being elected chairman, would only tell media after the board meeting the agency needed to go in a “new direction” after the vote. Clifford’s contract was set to expire next February but he would have needed eight of the 11 board members to vote for his retention.

According to the Sun-Times, nine board members voted to accept Clifford’s resignation, member Larry Huggins voted “present” and Jack Schaffer voted “hell no” and added he felt the “in the concept of a transit professional” running the agency isn’t far-fetched. Metra on-time performance rates exceeded 95 percent during his tenure made Metra more customer service-friendly and implemented changes that saved administrative costs, even as Metra raised fares significantly the past two years. The most important reform by Metra under Clifford was halting spending capital funds on operational expenses.

Clifford is leaving Metra with $442,237 as part of his buyout and could earn another $300,000 if he can’t find a job in the next 13 months.