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updated: 8/30/2013 6:28 PM

Cook commissioner calls for probe of McHenry County Metra dissenter

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  • Jack Schaffer

      Jack Schaffer

  • Liz Gorman

      Liz Gorman

  • Alex Clifford

      Alex Clifford

 
 

The lone Metra board member who voted against a controversial severance package for the transit agency's former CEO is now being targeted by a South suburban Cook County Board commissioner who wants him investigated for possibly leaking confidential information.

On Friday, Orland Park Republican Cook County Board Commissioner Liz Gorman called on Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza to investigate Metra Director Jack Schaffer, the McHenry County appointee from Cary, for emailing ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford potentially confidential Metra board material before Clifford's departure.

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In a recently released email from Clifford to Schaffer dated April 5, Clifford thanks Schaffer for emailing him a number of attachments, but states, " ... my lawyers concluded that the attachments were likely communications protected by the board's attorney-client privilege, and that you, as an individual board member, probably are not authorized to share the attachments with me. Upon the advice of my lawyers I intend to delete the email and attachments."

It's unclear what was in the email attachments Schaffer sent Clifford, but Gorman called the exchange "questionable."

"These email communications between Schaffer and Clifford do not pass the smell test on their face," she wrote in a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn. "How much confidential information did Schaffer give to Clifford and did it impact the settlement agreement? We don't know."

This is the latest twist in the saga of the scandal-plagued transit agency. Clifford was ousted in June, but given a hefty severance package worth $718,000 on the way out the door. The Metra board immediately caught flak for the decision.

But when a memo was released detailing Clifford's concerns that the board's then-Chairman Brad O'Halloran and director Larry Huggins were possibly involved in misconduct and attempts to give political patronage jobs at the agency to individuals linked to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, the board began imploding. O'Halloran, Huggins and three other directors resigned.

Because Gorman appointed O'Halloran to the Metra board, Schaffer believes he's being attacked by the county board commissioner to shift the focus off O'Halloran and Gorman.

"Be my guest," Schaffer said when asked if he was aware Gorman had called for an investigation into his activities. "They're welcome to every piece of paper and I'll talk to them until the cows come home. Listen, if (the inspector general's) got some spare time, he ought to investigate her."

Schaffer contends Metra lawyer Sue-Ann Rosen concluded that nothing Schaffer sent to Clifford had "any impact or import" to the ex-CEO's legal claims or eventual settlement with Metra.

"At the time I am a member of the Metra board trying to communicate with the head of Metra," Schaffer said.

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