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updated: 4/9/2014 7:46 PM

Investigation clears speaker of meddling in Metra jobs

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  • Michael Madigan

    Michael Madigan

  • Alex Clifford

    Alex Clifford


The Illinois General Assembly's inspector general has concluded Speaker Michael Madigan and other legislators did not break any laws, following claims of strong-arming Metra administrators over jobs.

Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer says he can't speak specifically about Madigan's case but said he'll be suggesting reforms in the next few days that could address patronage hiring.

"A decision to close an investigation based on insufficient evidence does not constitute a good housekeeping seal of approval or a best practices award," Homer wrote in a response to reporters' questions. "Moreover, closure does not bar the Inspector General from resuming the investigation if circumstances warrant."

Metra weathered a summer of scandal last year after former CEO Alex Clifford said he was being forced out of his job for resisting political pressure at the agency. Clifford stated that Madigan had exerted influence to give a campaign contributor a raise. He also said members of the Latino caucuses had asked him to hire a specific individual for a job.

House Democratic Ethics Officer Heather Wier Vaught wrote in a letter to those lawmakers that "no violation of any law" was found.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said in an email the report "speaks for itself."

Last summer, the speaker said he had recommended that former Metra labor specialist Patrick Ward get a raise. Ward, an acquaintance of 15 years, was well-qualified and had not received a raise despite being given additional responsibilities, Madigan said.

Latino lawmakers said they had asked Clifford to increase the number of minorities on Metra for greater diversity but did not push for specific people to be hired.

State Inspector General Ricardo Meza is still investigating the corruption allegations, which include other issues such as alleged conflict of interest by former members of the board directors.

A state task force also scrutinized Metra, the CTA, Pace and Regional Transit Authority and made reform recommendations March 31. These involved ethics fixes, such as a firewall preventing political interference with hiring or contracts.

The Metra board is set to vote Friday on a related reform. The proposal would require Metra employees to record if ever they are approached about employing someone at the agency. Such cases would be kept in a logbook and would be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, spokesman Mike Gillis said.

"It can be a deterrent for anyone who would attempt to make a political recommendation that the attempt would be publicized," he said.

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