Did Pace make a clout hiring, or are critics making 'absurd claims'?

Pace officials are defending the agency against claims of age discrimination and political nepotism entwined in a federal lawsuit.

Lawrence Gress of Downers Grove, a former Regional Transportation Authority employee, claims the suburban bus agency violated the Civil Rights Act when it hired the son of a state senator for a community relations position in 2016 instead of him.

Martin Sandoval II is in his 20s and lacks the experience Gress, 68, possesses, Gress' attorney Kent Maynard said. "We think there is wrongdoing and discrimination based on age," he said.

Pace pushed back against the allegations.

"Pace is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in hiring or other aspects of employment," spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said. The agency could not comment further, she said.

Because of the litigation, "I'm not in a position to comment on the absurd claims made," said state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Cicero Democrat and Senate Transportation Committee chairman.

Sandoval II did not respond to a request for comment.

Maynard said, "I look at this and try to connect the dots in a way doesn't suggest patronage and I have a rough time doing it."

The lawsuit also accuses Pace of racial discrimination against Gress, who is white.

Gress applied for the community relations representative position in April 2016. The salary range was $56,000 to $99,000. Qualifications included: a degree either in business administration, political science, public administration or a related field, plus experience in government affairs and customer service. Desirable skills were transit experience and fluency in Spanish.

The job description included marketing Pace, being a liaison with local communities and informing riders.

Gress worked for the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees Pace, for 12 years as a manager and marketed transit-related products in the private sector for six years. Gress is not fluent in Spanish. Sandoval, who is Hispanic, is fluent, but that was not an essential job requirement, Maynard said.

Martin Sandoval II's LinkedIn profile states he has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in social work. He worked at St. Anthony Hospital in Chicago as a community resource educator and a community and government affairs liaison, according to LinkedIn.

Gress' experience, interview performance and salary expectations "compared unfavorably" to Sandoval's, Pace states in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing the lawsuit cites.

In August, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman dismissed five out of eight counts in the lawsuit and agreed to remove an item alleging improprieties involving former Pace executives 22 years ago.

The judge allowed references to past political hiring scandals at Metra and the RTA to remain.

The senator said he is "confident Pace followed its general human resource policies and guidelines" when it hired his son.

Discovery is ongoing in the case with no court dates scheduled.

Got an opinion on the lawsuit or any other transportation questions? Drop an email to

Gridlock alert

Expect slow traffic starting this week in Lindenhurst along Route 132/Grand Avenue between Munn Road and Deerpath Drive in Lindenhurst. Illinois Department of Transportation crews are resurfacing and widening the road, plus adding left-turn lanes and a grass median. But don't worry - work lasts only through November.


Although it feels like the interminable work on the Jane Byrne Interchange continued full steam this winter, you haven't seen anything yet, IDOT says. If you care to learn more about the fun in store this spring and summer, join a public workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. The focus this year includes "rebuilding the expressway ramps within the interchange and improving the section connecting to the Eisenhower Expressway."

Forging ahead in reverse

Today, Metra begins running temporary reverse-commute trains on the Milwaukee District North Line primarily benefiting Chicagoans who work in and near Lake Forest. Metra and the public private partnership Lake County Partners will split the $1.4 million cost. There also will be tweaks to reverse commute trains on the line and one additional morning train. The changes are part of a two-year pilot project. For schedule information, go to

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