Fittest loser
Article posted: 10/22/2013 6:09 PM

Metra's insurance expert out after Clifford severance deal

Metra is still coping with fallout from a summer scandal involving former CEO Alex Clifford’s separation agreement.

Metra is still coping with fallout from a summer scandal involving former CEO Alex Clifford's separation agreement.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

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A key player in the Metra board's much-criticized payout to outgoing CEO Alex Clifford is leaving the agency.

Chief Audit and Compliance Officer Rick Capra has submitted his resignation, officials said Tuesday. Capra was Metra's insurance expert -- its former director of risk management tasked with investigating and negotiating claims against the agency and procuring policies.

However, a majority of board directors said they had no idea Metra possessed an insurance policy that could have saved the agency thousands when it signed a severance agreement with Clifford for up to $718,000 in June.

Clifford made a dramatic exit after accusing former Chairman Brad O'Halloran and another top director of misconduct, saying he was being forced out for refusing to condone political pressure over jobs.

Lawmakers called the deal "hush money" and demanded the board resign en masse. The outrage doubled after a Regional Transportation Authority audit showed insurance could have covered Metra for up to $10 million, aside from a $150,000 deductible.

"That was another reason not to vote for the severance package," said Metra Director Jack Schaffer of Cary, who cast the lone vote against the agreement.

Capra did not return a call seeking comment.

Metra administrators said they had no official comment on personnel matters. Capra was paid about $150,000 annually.

O'Halloran resigned in June, but his critics, including Schaffer, say he overstepped his authority during a power struggle with Clifford this spring and summer and did not consult with board directors over key decisions.

O'Halloran has denied any improper conduct and blamed Clifford for mismanagement.

As chief audit and compliance officer, Capra reported directly to the chairman and board directors and was responsible for mitigating all "internal and external risks" to Metra.

The job of chief audit and compliance officer was created in 2012 to prevent abuses of power and to report any misdeeds to the board after Metra's last scandal. Former CEO Phil Pagano committed suicide in 2010 amid a corruption probe.

"Unfortunately, the system was not designed to keep an eye on the chairman of the board," Schaffer said.

In the wake of the separation agreement, board directors said they made a business decision based on the expectation Clifford otherwise would sue under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, costing the agency millions.

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