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Article updated: 4/30/2013 8:34 PM

Metra meeting could decide CEO's future

Daily Herald File Photo Metra CEO Alex Clifford took over at Metra in 2011.

Daily Herald File Photo Metra CEO Alex Clifford took over at Metra in 2011.

 
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Metra leaders will huddle in closed session Thursday to discuss what could be the end of the line for CEO Alex Clifford's tenure at the troubled agency.

Clifford, who started at Metra in February 2011, is on the outs with some influential directors on the 11-member board.

Although officials agreed at an April 19 meeting to conduct a formal evaluation of Clifford that would take several weeks, one supporter said Tuesday his time at the helm could be running out.

"It's moving with unseemly haste," Metra Director Jack Schaffer of Cary said. "I think Alex has done a good job and I'd like him to continue, but he and the chairman (Brad O'Halloran) aren't on the same wavelength."

O'Halloran has said he can't comment on personnel issues.

Clifford declined to go into specifics about the contract, saying only "I am not going to comment about my contract situation at this time. My goal is to have my contract extended because I believe I have done a good job for Metra." The controversy comes at a troublesome time for Metra, which faces falling ridership and discontent about fare increases, legislative attacks and staff morale problems.

The atmosphere at the agency is "highly toxic," Schaffer said.

To make matters worse, investigators with the Illinois Office of the Inspector General are investigating hiring/personnel improprieties at the agency.

Metra is also up against two crucial 2015 deadlines -- to establish a universal fare program that works with the CTA and Pace, and to install an expensive Positive Train Control, an automatic braking system that prevents crashes.

Meanwhile, legislation requiring Metra fare increases to go before House and Senate Mass Transit Committee hearings has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

The board also is expected to discuss a consultants' report that led to raises for some staff members but not others, which has stirred up criticism.

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