Regional Transportation Authority board directors didn't buy arguments that empty desks in the auditing and IT departments justified emergency spending Wednesday.
The board quashed a request to approve more than $400,000 in "emergency" contracts with two consulting firms.
Directors questioned whether the situation constituted a crisis and said they needed more information before such a vote.
This year, the agency hired new deputy executive directors to manage the IT and audit departments. Those individuals separately recommended restructuring in their respective departments and firing employees. In late August, two people from auditing were let go while three IT staff members were dismissed and another reassigned.
Those actions left a staffing void and a subsequent urgent need to bring on temporary consultants, administrators said.
For the CTA, Pace or Metra, emergency contracts "are related to safety or service -- because (the RTA) is an oversight agency I want to know what created the emergency," RTA Director and former CTA Chairman Carole Brown asked.
Other directors asked why administrators hadn't stepped up hiring knowing there would be vacancies.
"This is our first emergency and hopefully our last," RTA Executive Director Joe Costello said. He added that the timing was complicated because the agency couldn't post jobs until the individuals were let go.
Costello said the restructuring and related changes meant administrators wanted to ensure employees with the right skills and background were in place.
"The real issue was not so much the contracts themselves as the declaration of emergency," Chairman John S. Gates Jr. said. "It was a communications issue, not a substance issue."