Editorial: A tale of two scandals
It's been a scandalous year for two public agencies in the suburbs.
In Schaumburg, three undercover police officers were brought up on drug conspiracy charges, another officer left in the face of unrelated charges of official misconduct and the former chief resigned after investigations cleared him of stalking an estranged girlfriend but found he had violated department policies.
At Metra, former CEO Alex Clifford left with a golden parachute that could climb to $871,000 after accusing former Chairman Brad O'Halloran and Director Larry Huggins of favoring politically connected job applicants and conflict of interest, which both men deny. As one fact-finding report after another hurled criticism at Metra, half of the board resigned.
Months after both scandals broke, how's the cleanup going?
Schaumburg reached a significant point in the rebuilding process this week by hiring new Police Chief James Lamkin, St. Charles' chief for the past decade. The village moved quickly after the scandal broke to bring in the respected consulting firm of Hillard Heintze to investigate and run the police department. Meanwhile, Schaumburg began putting in place Hillard Heintze's 55 recommendations, including doing away with the undercover vice unit.
It will take a while to restore the public's full confidence, but we're satisfied with Schaumburg's actions to stem the corruption and set in place people and procedures to prevent recurrence.
At Metra, with the board finally back up to full strength in October, a recent vote leaves us dismayed. Last week, the board lifted a 9 percent annual cap on pay increases for staff members, clearing the way for raises of up to 33 percent in some cases. The raises were granted in January for 299 nonunion employees after a consultant hired by Clifford said some salaries were too low for industry standards. The board, noting salaries had been frozen since 2009, at that time said the raises had to come in increments of no more than 9 percent a year.
But staff complained that some newly hired workers were being paid as much as established employees. After meeting in closed session, the new board removed the cap.
The lack of transparency and lack of regard for taxpayer dollars don't inspire confidence that Metra is on the way to righting its ship. While that's just one vote, we have yet to see Metra put forth a plan for getting clear of the cloud of mismanagement and misdeeds that has plagued the commuter rail agency for years.
As the saying goes, the real test of strength comes in dealing with difficult circumstances.
We like the response we've seen so far from Schaumburg.
For Metra, we're still waiting.
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