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Metra Board Chairman Resigns, Says 'Media And Political Frenzy' Forced His Hand

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 2, 2013 2:10PM

Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran. (Image via screengrab/Village of Orland Park YouTube)

Metra board of directors chairman Brad O’Halloran resigned late Thursday, claiming the ongoing scandals involving patronage hirings at the rail agency and the buyout of ex-CEO Alex Clifford’s contract created a “media and political frenzy” hampering his effectiveness dealing with Clifford’s allegations of political back-scratching.

In a letter to Cook County Commissioners Elizabeth Doody Gorman and Jeff Tobolski, O’Halloran said:

”I have come to the sad conclusion that, so long as I am Chairman and a member of the board, the truly critical issues facing Metra will be left aside while the focus remains on the next big headline or attention-grabbing quotation. “It is unacceptable to me and I have to do what is in my power to stop this now, which is why I have made this decision. I am disappointed that the facts as you and I know them have been eclipsed. I know I have made every decision with the best interests of Metra in mind.”

O’Halloran and Metra’s board has faced a barrage of criticism in the media and from state lawmakers after accepting Clifford’s resignation in June and negotiating a $442,000 buyout of his contract that could earn Clifford an extra $300,000 if he doesn’t find a job in the next 13 months. The resignation and severance package came with a confidentiality agreement and is shrouded in secrecy. Clifford testified before the Regional Transportation Board last month that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan attempted to use his clout to get a pay raise for one of his political workers employed at the agency. Clifford said he detailed the allegations in a nine-page memo to O’Halloran and blamed his ouster on his refusal to accommodate Madigan.

O’Halloran has become the public face of the scandal and said Clifford’s generous severance package was done to because Clifford allegedly threatened a whistleblower lawsuit. (An aside: how’s that working out? The Sun-Times reports the legal tab run up by Metra in the wake of the Clifford resignation has cost taxpayers over $250,000 and counting.)

Earlier this week the Tribune reported O’Halloran was still receiving paychecks for his work as an Orland Park Village trustee, despite a ban on receiving compensation from other government bodies while serving on Metra’s board. O’Halloran, who was paid by Orland Park for 16 months before filing a request to end the payments last December, didn’t move to return nearly $22,000 in money until after the Clifford and patronage scandals became front page news. O’Halloran also resigned from his trustee position with Orland Park Thursday. He becomes the third Metra Board member to resign since the Clifford resignation broke.

Chicagoist coverage of the Alex Clifford severance scandal and Brad O'Halloran.