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RTA Report Recommends Guidelines For Avoiding Patronage Hires

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 14, 2013 7:40PM

2011_10_24_RTA.jpg A 13-page report from the Regional Transportation Authority lays out guidelines to avoid patronage hires at Metra. You know, since “don’t hire someone because Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says you should” doesn’t seem to work.

The report will be presented to the RTA board next week and uses the $871,000 buyout of former Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford’s contract in June as a jumping point. It recommends Metra establish best practices for evaluating board members and the agency’s executive director, clearly define the responsibilities and duties of the board and executive director, develop guidelines for board members to recuse themselves in the event of conflicts of interest and set up policies and procedures regarding separation agreements. This way when the next Metra executive director resigns he or she isn’t handed close to a million dollars on the way out the door.

Former U.S. prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to head a task force in the wake of the Clifford scandal, said in September “there’s not a lot of training on whether people can be hired based on political affiliation’’ at Metra. But then the clout-heavy Metra board of directors is seen as a dumping ground for patronage so how could they identify it?

Metra, in a three-page response signed by interim executive director Donald Orseno, said they agreed with the report and already started taking steps to correct some of the problems.

Clifford alleged that Madigan personally pressured him to promote a Metra employee who also happened to be a campaign worker for the Speaker. Madigan denied the allegations.