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Article posted: 2/6/2014 6:32 PM

Could choosing a Metra chairman be 'sparks' free?

By Marni Pyke

Metra's board of directors is expected to vote on a new chairman Tuesday, but don't expect any drama, officials said.

If that's the case, it would be a contrast to the last chairman decision in November 2012, when former acting Chairman Larry Huggins still wanted to hold on to his position despite a push for then-Director Brad O'Halloran to get the job.

The board's move to appoint O'Halloran was a fateful one: He became involved in a power struggle with former CEO Alex Clifford. Both men exited Metra last summer amid a growing scandal into political patronage at the agency, which Clifford accused O'Halloran of condoning.

This time, there are "no sparks involved," said acting Chairman Jack Partelow of Naperville, who stepped into the breach after O'Halloran's resignation in July 2013.

"It's a more congenial group," Partelow said.

Three board directors from Cook County are expected to discuss their qualifications Tuesday, possibly during open session. They are Chicago attorney and former Alderman Martin Oberman, retired CTA attorney John Plante of Wilmette and Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves.

"They are all good people," Partelow said.

Previously, the elected officials who appoint Metra directors have orchestrated the chairman vote, but Partelow said he wasn't aware of any interference this time.

Metra bylaws have established a rotating chairmanship, alternating between Cook County members and Collar County members. The current term must be held by a Cook County resident.

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