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Article updated: 7/21/2013 9:56 PM

Latest spin on Metra fiasco — no Collins

By Marni Pyke

It appears former assistant U.S. attorney Patrick Collins won't be sweeping in to clean up Metra's mess.

Metra board of directors officials said Sunday the agency had abruptly canceled a Monday meeting where they were expected to vote on hiring Collins, the prosecutor who sent former Gov. George Ryan to prison.

Collins' star power would have given the beleaguered Metra board and its Chairman Brad O'Halloran some breathing room coping with fallout after a so-called golden parachute handed to ex-CEO Alex Clifford. The agency has been sharply criticized since the June 21 separation agreement was approved.

Clifford is making a dramatic exit, accusing O'Halloran and Director Larry Huggins of condoning political patronage requests from lawmakers including powerful Speaker Michael Madigan along with conflict of interest charges related to board contracts. His refusal to go along with pay-to-play demands doomed his contract renewal, Clifford states.

The two men have called Clifford's claims preposterous and O'Halloran said a review by another former assistant U.S. attorney, Rodger Heaton, found no wrongdoing. Heaton's report has cost about $52,000 and has not been released to the public. Meanwhile the RTA, and two state agencies are investigating.

It's not clear what caused the meeting's cancellation although officials said Sunday, Collins had pulled out and O'Halloran may not have had the votes for the contract -- another sign of disarray at the troubled agency.

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