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Metra Board Chairman Wants Former Federal Prosecutor To Look Into Ex-CEO Allegations

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 19, 2013 9:15PM

Photo by tncountryfan

Metra Board chairman Brad O’Halloran, who’s reaped a whirlwind of criticism for the transit agency’s buyout of former CEO Alex Clifford’s contract last month, has called for a special meeting of the board Monday to recommend hiring a former federal prosecutor to investigate the allegations of patronage hiring levied by Clifford. O’Halloran may want to be careful for what he wishes, given the attorney he wants to hire.

Patrick Collins, who’s been with the law firm of Perkins Coie since 2007, is best known as one of the federal prosecutors who helped put former Illinois Gov. George Ryan behind bars for accepting bribes in exchange for awarding commercial driver's licenses during his tenure as Illinois Secretary of State. Collins was also appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to the Illinois Reform Commission tasked with making recommendations for ethical reform in state government. If Collins’ hiring is approved by Metra’s board, he’ll spearhead an independent investigation of patronage claims made by Clifford during testimony before the Regional Transportation Authority board of directors earlier this week.

Clifford saved his sharpest barbs for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, whom he accused of asking for a promotion for a Metra employee. Clifford said Madigan’s alleged request showed a “moral and ethical flaw” with the Speaker. (Madigan has denied the allegations.)

Clifford also accused O’Halloran of working to secure a contract with Metra for a financial institution for which he has ties, said former acting Metra Chairman Larry Huggins awarded a no-bid contract to a business associate without the board's approval, and accused Huggins of working with the late Metra CEO Phil Pagano and Rep. Bobby Rush to award a contract for the Englewood Flyover construction project to a minority group with ties to Huggins.

If Collins is hired, he’ll have 90 days to make a full report to Metra’s board in a public session and make recommendations regarding the agency’s hiring and firing policies. O’Halloran said, “Patrick Collins has an unquestioned reputation for integrity, honesty and fighting corruption. I look forward to an unflinching report which makes recommendations that help the agency restore confidence with riders, taxpayers and the communities we serve.”