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Article posted: 7/26/2013 10:04 PM

Metra considering hiring Dan Webb for investigation

By Marni Pyke

If you can't get Patrick Collins, try Dan Webb. That's the course Metra leaders could chose as they try to get out from under a cloud of criticism over allegations of misconduct and throwing away money on a separation agreement with ex-CEO Alex Clifford.

Officials confirmed the agency is considering hiring former U.S. Attorney Webb to investigate accusations of political patronage and conflict of interest centered around Chairman Brad O'Halloran and Director Larry Huggins made by Clifford.

Webb gained fame as a prosecutor in the Iran-Contra affair and the Operation Greylord probe into Cook County judicial misdeeds. He now is a partner with Winston & Strawn and defended former Gov. George Ryan in his corruption trial.

The Metra board had been set to vote Monday on hiring Collins, a former assistant U.S. attorney who led the prosecution of Ryan. But that was canceled after Collins pulled out.

If a contract with Webb goes before the board for approval, it may not be smooth sailing. Several directors and others such as Regional Transportation Authority board member Bill Coulson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, have questioned the wisdom of such a move.

Metra already has paid another former federal prosecutor, Rodger Heaton, about $52,000 to investigate Clifford's claims, including allegations House Speaker Michael Madigan tried to get a raise for an employee who also was a contributor.

O'Halloran and Huggins have denied any wrongdoing and the chairman has questioned why Clifford did not turn his concerns over to authorities when they surfaced in 2012.

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