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Loads Of Dirty Laundry Aired At Metra Board Meeting

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 11, 2013 9:40PM

2013_6_21_clifford_pretty.png Metra Board Chairman Brad O’Halloran and the rail agency’s former CEO, Alex Clifford, met with the Regional Transportation Authority Board of Directors Wednesday to address Clifford’s resignation last month, the buyout of his contract that could net Clifford nearly $740,000 and the secrecy surrounding it. Let’s just say if you had a poor opinion of Metra’s board before the meeting, O’Halloran didn’t say anything that would change your minds.

O’Halloran said he had no regrets about Clifford’s severance package and called it a business decision that ultimately would save Metra millions, as he claimed Clifford threatened to sue the agency for more than what he received upon his resignation. O’Halloran said letting Clifford serve out the remaining eight months of his contract would have put the agency in a “leadership paralysis.”

“I have no regrets,’’ except, he said with a chuckle, “maybe taking this spot.’’

In a statement released Tuesday, O’Halloran soundly criticized Clifford on Metra’s decision to increase the cost of 10-ride tickets, which he called a “bad idea,” and the $93 million contract for the construction project known as the Englewood Flyover which would ease congestion on the Rock Island Line, which currently shares railroad track with freight and Amtrak routes. He accused Clifford of trying to circumvent a standard job performance evaluation when another Metra board member said his contract may not be renewed. "Also, surprisingly, Mr. Clifford (then) told this board member that he was being retaliated against for his refusal to go along with politically motivated patronage and contract requests," O'Halloran said. He added that the public perception of Metra’s board as a politically appointed cesspool “have been flat-out wrong."

RTA didn’t get much in the way of transparency from either O’Halloran or Clifford. Clifford did say he was under pressure from at least two unnamed board members to hire friends of theirs and accused Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of asking Clifford to give Metra employee Patrick Ward a merit-based pay raise based on education level and job performance. Madigan’s office released a statement denying Clifford’s allegations. As for the board members accused of greasing the patronage skids, they wound up voting in favor of accepting Clifford’s resignation and severance package.

Clifford chose not to address the severance package Wednesday, citing the confidentiality agreement in place. O’Halloran’s remarks about did lead Clifford to acknowledge that he was in talks with his attorneys about what he could disclose about the separation agreements and to address O’Halloran’s accusations.

This isn’t over by a long shot, folks.