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Everything You Need to Know About the Metra Scandal

You’ll hear more about the Metra mess when Governor Quinn convenes a 15-member panel next week to recommend changes to the Regional Transportation Authority. But first: Need a refresher?

Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune

What happened at Metra?

The trouble started in June when CEO Alex Clifford’s contract was bought out for a whopping $871,000. The lone board member voting against the deal, Jack Schaffer, called it “hush money,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hush money for what?

In an April memo, Clifford claimed that Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois house, had asked him to give promotions and pay raises to political associates who worked at Metra. Madigan denies he did anything inappropriate.

What happened to the board?

By early September, four Metra board members had resigned under pressure, including the chairman, Brad O’Halloran. A fifth resigned in August, but the reason cited was his residence in Chicago when state law requires board members to live in suburban Cook County. A sixth member asked not to be reappointed at the end of his term in September.

So how many people are on the board now?

As of October 4, all vacancies except the one left by O’Halloran had been filled. Two of the appointees are former Chicago Transit Authority executives, one is a developer, and one a former federal judge. Commissioners from the south and southwest suburbs are expected to fill the final spot before the board’s October 18 meeting.

How about a new CEO?

Don Orseno, Metra’s operations officer, is serving as interim CEO until the board can name a replacement. Although the board has regained the supermajority of eight needed to approve big changes, it’s not certain when it will start vetting new executive candidates.

What’s next?

Four investigations are underway. One of them, the governor’s panel, includes former U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. They are tasked with coming up with recommendations to fix the Regional Transportation Authority system by the fall legislative session.


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