Suburbanites settle in to Metra board
Metra's besieged board continued its gradual evolution Friday with the arrival of two new members from the suburbs.
Directors Manuel Barbosa, a retired federal judge from Elgin, and John Zediker, a Naperville transportation planner, bring the board's total to eight members, sufficient to pick a permanent chairman or executive director. Barbosa, a former Kane County prosecutor, is the Metra board's first Hispanic representative.
The board's been under fire since June when officials approved an up-to $718,000 separation agreement with ex-CEO Alex Clifford who has accused two former directors of misconduct. Two state inspectors general are investigating the charges and some lawmakers have called for the entire board to step down.
Barbosa hoped his 33 years of public service, including serving as a federal judge, gave him "some insight into problem-solving and maybe a little wisdom."
"It seems this organization is going through a period of introspection, self-analysis and external scrutiny -- and that's healthy. In my humble opinion, I hope this is a time of opportunity for improvements. I come not with trepidation but I hope enthusiasm and optimism," he said.
Zediker, a former DuPage County Board member, quoted Winston Churchill: "'Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak and courage is also what it takes to sit and listen.' I hope I have the wisdom to do both those things as we move down this difficult road," he said. "But it's also a road filled with promise and hope as we take our first steps to restoring Metra as a leader in public transportation in Chicago and the suburbs."
Barbosa and Zediker were appointed by the Kane and DuPage County chairmen, respectively.
Since the scandal broke, five of 11 board members have resigned. Two others -- former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder and former state senator Jack Schaffer of Cary -- are not seeking reappointment when their terms end in June. Director and Evanston attorney William Widmer's term has expired.
That leaves three directors who are expected to stay put. Partelow's four-year term was renewed in June. "Jack's done a very commendable job representing Will County," said Will County Chief Executive Larry Walsh, who appointed Partelow.
In an April 3 memo, Clifford accused former Chairman Brad O'Halloran and former Director Larry Huggins of condoning political patronage. Both have denied any wrongdoing and have resigned.
Director Norm Carlson of Lake Forest was appointed in April 2013 for a four-year term. Lake County Chairman Aaron Lawlor said he appointed Carlson for his railroad expertise and wants to see the results of the state's Office of the Executive Inspector General investigation before passing judgment on Carlson's vote in favor of the separation agreement.
South Holland Mayor and Director Don DeGraff's term lasts through June 2016 and he intends to stay put.