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Article updated: 7/23/2013 9:53 PM

Metra vacancy has Kane County chairman wondering how to fill it

By James Fuller

The resignation of Kane County's representative to the Metra board of directors last week has the county's top official wondering what kind of person it would take to really get the organization back on track.

County board Chairman Chris Lauzen said Tuesday he has no timetable to appoint a replacement for Mike McCoy, who resigned from the Metra board last week. McCoy cited a lack of time and desire to serve on the board even as it examines allegations from former CEO Alex Clifford of conflict of interest and patronage.

Lauzen said he's not sure what to make of the allegations, but he's not surprised to hear them.

"I don't know how to say it politely," Lauzen said. "Anything that is inappropriate, it ought to be investigated. And, if it's proven, it ought to be prosecuted. The problem with that is what the culture in Chicago and in Springfield is that this is just the way that it happens. What worries me the most is that people joke, and then they accept it."

The key for Kane County, Lauzen said, is finding an appointee who won't accept any political shenanigans or impropriety. He just isn't sure how that character trait is most clearly demonstrated in applications and resumes to replace McCoy.

"I don't know what we're looking for," Lauzen said. "At first I would have thought someone with a transportation, train, engineering (background). Someone like Mike McCoy. Now I'm thinking, do you need a lawyer? Do you need an investigator? Do you need a more politically astute person? How are you going to climb out of the swamp where they are right now?"

County officials will undergo a search process similar to the one they recently completed to name the county's representative to the RTA board. An open application period will begin the process. A review committee will narrow the applications to a handful of finalists. Then Lauzen will select an appointee from those finalists. The full county board would then have to ratify that selection by a majority vote.

One of the obstacles to that process will be any outward appearance of political favoritism playing a role in the appointment process. Sue Klinkhamer is Kane County's appointee to the Metra Citizen Advisory Board. She was also an applicant during the processes that resulted in McCoy's appointment under former Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay. She was also an applicant during the county's recent RTA representative selection process.

"I will be happy to explain to the board how Kane County's process to appoint board members is a sham," Klinkhamer wrote on Facebook last week. "Having been through it twice, it is nothing but political shenanigans."

Klinkhamer was also Lauzen's opponent in the most recent county board chairman election.

Lauzen said a fair and open process will be used, but he expects some criticism.

"I know some people are thinking, 'Oh, Chris is going to pick one of his pals,'" he said. "Well, no. We're going to go through it."

He added: "I'm blessed that I know a lot of folks out here. And you need to know who you're going to have representing you."

The open application period has not yet begun. But Lauzen said he welcomes any advice or public feedback on how the county should handle the open Metra seat beforehand.

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