You know things are bad when the Metra board meets -- in July. Normally, the agency's board of directors takes a summer break between June and August, but the implosion over ex-CEO Alex Clifford's separation agreement has meant everything but business as usual.
Board directors Jack Schaffer of Cary and Mike McCoy of Aurora confirmed that plans are under way to convene a special session -- possibly next week. One of the topics could be conducting another investigation into Clifford's allegations of political patronage and conflict of interest at the agency.
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That would be the second probe which Metra has paid for into alleged misconduct. Former U.S. Attorney Rodger Heaton reviewed the charges this spring and found nothing wrong, according to Chairman Brad O'Halloran, although Schaffer said Heaton's report was not distributed to other directors.
O'Halloran could not be reached for comment.
Three other agencies are circling Metra as well. The RTA is auditing the costly separation agreement, and the state's executive inspector general and the General Assembly's legislative inspector general are also investigating.
But other topics on the agenda could include the chairmanship of the board or how the agency proceeds under a split leadership team with two deputy executive directors, an unprecedented step for Metra. The RTA Act calls for Metra to appoint one executive director.
Clifford has accused O'Halloran of trying to oust him after he refused to give a Metra employee and supporter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan a raise and of another conflict of interest involving a banking contract.
O'Halloran called Clifford's accusations a "lot of hooey" at an RTA hearing Wednesday and said he never interfered with hiring at the agency.
"Personally, I would like to see Brad step aside and give us a chance to elect a replacement," Schaffer said.
Madigan's office has denied any wrongdoing.