A turbulent situation at Metra could get even choppier with the possibility of a stalemate on Chairman Brad O'Halloran's future.
With two directors leaving, the votes needed to remove O'Halloran might not be there -- even if a majority wants him out.
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Directors Paul Darley of Elmhurst and Mike McCoy of Aurora stepped down Tuesday and June 19, respectively, as the agency faces flak over an up-to $718,000 separation agreement with former CEO Alex Clifford, who has accused O'Halloran of misconduct.
Nine out of 11 board directors remain, but eight votes are required to take action regarding the chairman. Meanwhile, Director Jack Schaffer of Cary told the Daily Herald on Tuesday he would put the matter to a vote Aug. 16.
Vice Chairman Jack Partelow of Naperville said Wednesday he would not vote for the status quo.
"The time is right for some corrective action regarding the chairman," Partelow said.
Most Metra directors have kept a low profile since approving the June 21 separation agreement, and many did not return calls. At this point, although many are in favor of a change, the eight votes aren't there yet, officials said.
Clifford accused O'Halloran of condoning political patronage pressure over jobs from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2012, which the chairman has denied. In addition, revelations O'Halloran double-dipped by receiving stipends as a Metra director and Orland Park trustee have caused lawmakers to call for his ouster.
Who would be the next chairman -- if O'Halloran goes -- is partly determined by a formula Metra directors approved in 2012. A rotating chairmanship gives the job to a Cook County director for one term, then to a board member from DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties next. However, it is not clear how the rotation would work if a chairman's term ended abruptly.
The remaining collar county directors on Metra include Partelow, Norm Carlson of Lake Forest and Jack Schaffer of Cary, who has said he will not seek reappointment when his term expires next year.
To conduct meetings and vote on most Metra business, six directors are required, which could scuttle plans for a high-profile consultant to investigate Clifford's allegations. O'Halloran had sought to hire renowned former prosecutor Patrick Collins, but he withdrew.
That's a good thing, thinks Steve Schlickman, head of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Urban Transportation Center and former RTA CEO.
"You're not going to get what would be perceived as a credible evaluation -- that would only come from an independent third party not at all connected to Metra," Schlickman said.