Metra director Marty Oberman stepping down Wednesday
After saving Metra $25,000 a year when he didn't accept a stipend, Metra's former chairman and director Martin Oberman is stepping down.
The Chicago attorney and former alderman was appointed amid a patronage scandal in fall 2013 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who asked him to institute reforms at the troubled agency. Oberman's last meeting is Wednesday.
"I'll miss the challenges and I'll miss the people," said Oberman, but added Emanuel indicated he had a new role for him. "I'm ready to focus on other things."
When Oberman started at Metra, the agency was recovering from a rocky year after the exit of Executive Director Alex Clifford, who revealed attempts by lawmakers to influence hiring at the agency. The flap followed a corruption probe in 2010 related to former Executive Director Phil Pagano, who died by suicide during an investigation of improper use of funds.
Using "colorful language," Emanuel told Oberman, who was known as an independent voice on the City Council, that "Metra was a mess and needed transparency and accountability," he recalled.
Since then, Oberman worked with colleagues to tighten ethics rules, instituted a log where employees must report any improper conduct by lawmakers or others regarding jobs at Metra, and spearheaded a capital improvement plan partly funded by fare increases.
"Everyone was committed to righting the ship," he said.
He did not accept the chairman's $25,000 a year salary or a director's $15,000 annual stipend. Oberman became chairman in early 2014 and relinquished the job to Chairman Norm Carlson last fall.
Although new to railroads, "I fell in love with Metra," he said.