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updated: 4/18/2014 5:35 PM

Watchdog asks for Metra-inspired reforms

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  • Michael Madigan

      Michael Madigan

  • Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer suggested ethics reforms for Metra Friday.

       Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer suggested ethics reforms for Metra Friday.
    Gilbert R. Boucher | Staff Photographer


Political Editor

Springfield -- Illinois' legislative watchdog Friday outlined ethics reforms targeted at a Metra hiring scandal last year that led to the resignation of CEO Alex Clifford.

Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer suggested lawmakers adopt the more strict practices that guide Congress when members want to help a constituent get a job.

Homer last week cleared Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of wrongdoing after an investigation into the powerful Democrat's work to try to get a campaign contributor a raise at Metra.

In clearing Madigan, Homer said he'd suggest ethics changes.

"There is nothing inherently wrong with a legislator going to bat for a constituent," Homer said in a statement. "However, supporters and contributors should not be singled out for special treatment. A legislator's responsibility is to all of his or her constituents equally, irrespective of political affiliation or political contributions."

Homer called for more transparency when a lawmaker gets involved with hiring, including putting requests in writing, not favoring politically connected candidates and making it easier for investigations like his to be made public.

Last week, Metra directors moved to require employees and board members to enter into a log anytime they're contacted about personnel matters. It would apply to politicians and workers alike.

"It doesn't distinguish from someone at a cocktail party to a congressman," board director John Zediker of Naperville said.

Homer's recommendations come the same week Metra revealed Illinois political power players' hiring recommendations that were kept on notecards at the agency from 1983 to 1991.

A Metra report from the end of March reported the existence of the cards, which name Madigan, former Gov. Jim Edgar and numerous others who put a good word in for job candidates.

"While there is nothing inherently improper (much less illegal) about a person recommending someone else for a job or promotion, there is something systemically wrong when such references on behalf of politically connected individuals seem to dominate and control the process to the detriment of better qualified candidates," the report said.

•The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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