RTA Director and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Coulson thinks Metra's ex-CEO Alex Clifford had a good case against his former bosses, thanks to missteps by two top leaders.
The RTA Wednesday released an audit of a controversial up-to-$718,000 separation agreement with Clifford that blasted Metra for wasting money and misleading the public.
Clifford left in June but not before he issued a stunning memo accusing former Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran and Director Larry Huggins of misconduct. The two men denied any wrongdoing and O'Halloran blamed Clifford for problems at Metra.
Coulson, a Glenview resident, said the evidence indicates Clifford had the odds in his favor.
"Certainly, with a Chicago judge or jury, he could've won his case," Coulson said.
"Mr. O'Halloran's claims that there were only fatal operational and oversight disagreements with Clifford is not supported by the four 2013 letters of recommendation of Clifford written by four Metra board members," Coulson wrote.
Coulson faulted O'Halloran and Huggins for originating the controversy.
Clifford has accused both men of condoning political interference in jobs from lawmakers including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"The fact remains that the conduct of two leading Metra board members -- Mr. O'Halloran and Mr. Huggins -- created the substantial legal claims for which Metra has expended great sums of public moneys," Coulson wrote.
"Metra has spent over another $340,000 on attorneys, investigators, and public relations in response to the Clifford allegations."
Coulson added, "Mr. O'Halloran, who was one of the two central objects of the underlying accusations, should have recused himself not only from the vote on the settlement but from all subsequent actions and expenditures. Instead, he appears to have taken a leading role in the subsequent events, and made most of the public statements on Metra's behalf."
Speaking to RTA directors, Coulson added, "Mr. O'Halloran had a tremendous conflict of interest."