METRA Officials Lied

METRA Officials Lied

And now more of the truth is emerging about personal and political agendas by certain METRA Board Members involved in the swift ouster of former Chief Executive Officer Alex Clifford and his over-inflated severance package. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA), which has financial oversight of METRA and other transportation agencies, conducted an in-depth audit immediately after the scandal was made public and its results are troubling indeed.

So troubling, in fact, that we can safely say that METRA Officials Lied regarding the decisions to pay Alex Clifford an exorbitant amount of money in exchange for his silence as well as redefining the power structure at the agency instead of using an insurance policy that would have indemnified METRA up to a $10 million for cases specifically covering whistle-blower and employment-retaliation lawsuits.

This insurance policy, which was purchased by METRA for $98,000 earlier this year, carried an $150,000 deductible is far less than the revised value of the severance package which now stands at a whopping $871,000 vs. the earlier reported $718,000. Of course either of these numbers are absolutely insane but $871,000? And the agency was covered against this very situation?

Well folks, it doesn't take a fricking genius to figure out that there was something else going on at METRA. And it obviously had less to do with suppressing a whistle-blower for which they were covered and some lofty political aspirations. The real shame here is that maybe one or two board members that resigned under fire may have had a legitimate argument that they were deceived by some of their colleagues.

But let's be clear here too - each and every board member had the obligation to gather as much pertinent information regarding their options as opposed to acting as a collective rubber-stamp. How is it that the information regarding this insurance policy was unknown, as some have suggested? Did they not all have to concur on an expenditure that would offer protection for their agency? And what of other of the multitudes of government boards in state government? Are they all run on the whims of a powerful few while others are left in the dark?

And if that is the case then the taxpayers of Illinois are in a much worse place than they already are because that would indicate that a substantial amount of government appointments are being led around by their nose-rings by agency czars who may or may not have the best interests of that particular board at the top of their priority list.

Unfortunately many who are ultimately caught for transgressions against the taxpayer are permitted to walk away without fear of prosecution because there is very little in the way of real ethics or are given generous loopholes by an equally corrupt Illinois Legislature. But kid yourselves not - these things that they do most certainly qualify as being criminal acts against the people of Illinois.

And what about the possible malfeasance of outside law firms hired by METRA to offer them legal advice? Should they not be penalized beyond getting fired? I would think at the very least that that those law firms return any fees they may have made because they certainly did not do their due diligence if they had no knowledge of what METRA had to indemnify themselves against possible litigation. Or were they purposely misled by certain board members? I mean isn't it awful strange that the internal lawyers working for METRA were kept out of this entire process?

Hmm let's see - what's the definition of a conspiracy? Oh yes - "a secret plan or agreement to carry out an illegal or harmful act, esp with political motivation; plot." So then - it seems we can safely assume that there were certain members on the METRA Board who had political motivation to remove former CEO Alex Clifford as quickly and quietly as possible.

Was this a conspiracy? I don't know but sure sounds like one.

We already know that upon learning of the possibility that his contract would not be renewed, Clifford threatened the board he would blow the whistle on them regarding patronage hire requests and subsequent pressure to do so and that also led directly to Illinois Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan. Seems the board was stuck between a rock and a hard place as political hardball met political hardball.

Exactly what occurred leading up to the decision to offer Alex Clifford his cozy severance package is anyone's guess but I have a theory that wouldn't bode well for whoever pulled the strings on this. And I have no doubt that this goes much deeper than what has been revealed thus far.

There is a reason for all this deception and misleading of elected officials trying to get to the bottom of this. The big question is whether or not we will ever be told the entire truth behind it? But let us not forget that Alex Clifford, for all intents and purposes, was an outsider going toe to toe with loyal insiders of our Political Jericho. And having its walls fall down is the very last thing that Illinois Democrats and their Combine brethren desire.

Why? Because there is much money to be made off the backs of "Illinites."

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  • There are several things here, and not just that the board lied.

    O'Halloran definitely lied when he said he wasn't implicated in the memo he wouldn't release, until the state House committee made a stink. He probably also lied when he said that a former downstate U.S. Attorney investigated and said there was no wrongdoing.

    The Tribune article implied that Metra lied about having to enter into the settlement agreement. However, the core of the matter is reflected in your comment But let's be clear here too - each and every board member had the obligation to gather as much pertinent information regarding their options as opposed to acting as a collective rubber-stamp..

    Essentially, 3 of the 4 boards are nothing but rubber stamps; only the Pace board deliberates. The CTA board is now obviously a rubber stamp (its minutes are only "the omnibus [resolution] passed unanimously"). And Terry Peterson lies about listening at public hearings mandated by federal law.

    Which brings up the real problem: Neither the boards themselves nor the appointing authorities comply with the law, and the board members do not do their due diligence. Like you said, they should be somewhat aware of basic things like insurance coverage, or have honest staff to advise them, and not let the chairman hire outside mad dogs without board concurrence.

    The outside attorneys may be liable for malpractice--which is not "refunding their fees" but repaying all damage done. In this case, the value would be whatever was paid to avoid the litigation (at least the settlement less the deductible).

    On the other hand, the chairman of the RTA board is also delusional. He said to cancel the contract, but there is no reason or how. Clifford didn't breach the contract or defraud Metra, and even if it could be said that the contract is completely beyond Metra's powers, there isn't a sufficient number of board members to rehire him, and all Clifford wants is his money, as exemplified by, for instance, his not being willing to answer anything until the "Metra special counsel" said o.k.

    Then we get to the politicization of things, including that NONE of Quinn's appointments (not just Zuccarelli) conforms to the law. Then you had Claypool saying "no problem with the CTA, you can vote out da Mare." No mention that this isn't relief to the passengers in the 43 suburbs CTA says it serves, besides that Claypool is supposed to report to a board of people with business experience, not the mayor.

    And, apparently the severance payment issue is now popping up all over Illinois; there is a stink in Lake County about giving a severance to a public housing director, and in Evanston yesterday about the elementary school district giving a superintendent who just resigned a severance payment. And we thought that Stroger appointees getting unemployment compensation after they resigned was egregious.

    I was going to say "if we ever got to the bottom of this manure pile." However, we are assured that we won't, as for instance, there was an article yesterday that Dan Lipinski (D-Daddy; or maybe floating 3rd) said to abolish the 4 boards and have public input on the remedy, because otherwise you won't get federal aid from this Congress. Of course, Quinn appointee, the IDOT secretary, said no public hearings. I don't know if Patrick Fitzgerald can overcome that Quinn has also set this panel up to fail, because it won't take outside opinion, but just the S.O.S.

    In the meantime, the the solution to the Pagano scandal was supposed to be more inspectors general, but "we have to wait for their report" has become another cover up.

    What an unmitigated mess, which, like everything in government here, just keeps getting worse. Sort of like the piglets with diarrhea. Sorry that this motivated me to go to the barnyard several times.

  • The Tribune editorial had a more specific lie relating to the insurance--that O'Halloran said that Metra was self insured. The basis for the malpractice claim is also stated in the editorial.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for passing this along and will give it a read.

  • No apologies Jack this is exactly the reaction I was hoping for and since I can't add anything to make what you said better or relevant - I will leave this comment alone and without an additional blurt except to say Thank You! You have validated my intention.

  • John Kass may have something today, or maybe not.

    The beer can up the taxpayers' butt seems an apt analogy, but it seems like as citizens, not as taxpayers. The headline implied that in addition, Quinn (who didn't get a nickname--very strange) and the various other princes were about to impose another tax increase.

    Related to the other post is Kass's point on how Raoul can position himself so long as the pension mess is in his committee. I'll add that traditionally, the Black community has not supported Hyde Parkers, not even Obama when he ran against Bobby Rush.

  • In reply to jack:

    Think I agree on the as citizens part. As for tax increases, isn't that always the out card? I mean if they actually had yo think something out rationally their brains would probably blow up.

    Don't think Raoul can win - only split votes.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    The question may be whose vote would be split, as Quinn appears to be the black Irishman. A very pasty one.

    Of course, in the last mayor's race, the Blacks split their own vote. The Sun-Times had a headline that with 3 candidates with 9% of the vote each, they couldn't win, so two dropped out and Carol Moseley Braun got 9%.

    I also remember that Raoul was the one who came up with the "brilliant" idea of legislation to compel the South Shore train to stop at all stops in Chicago--unconstitutional because (a) the South Shore is run by an instrumentality of the state of Indiana which may not even be sued in Illinois courts, and (b) it involved interference with interstate commerce. So another Illinois legislator who wanted to violate his oath to uphold the constitution in an attempt to pander to a couple of voters he won't get. And also supports your "brains blowing up point."

  • In reply to jack:

    Well yeah Quinn is probably the Black Irishman but he is also the Machine's Choice throughout Suburban Cook County and they will get out the vote for him. So multiple African-Americans only hurt themselves more (and of course putting up a credible candidate - Braun was destined to lose after her snarky money trail was exposed). Raoul I imagine is in the same boat as Braun in terms of "no brain power."

    p.s. like your adding in that interstate commerce tidbit - just makes him look all the more stupid.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    I don't know Raoul's background, except that his biography on the ilga.gov site says that he got a law degree from Chicago-Kent, which doesn't put him on the brainpower level of his more famous neighbor who was the President of the Harvard Law Review and a Senior Lecturer of Law at the U of C.

    Chicago-Kent used to be the starting grounds for Republicans, though, with Dems coming from DePaul.

    But the Google says that he is about to announce some pension bill, mostly about cutting the COLA.

  • In reply to jack:

    Interesting. Aside from DePaul I always thought the John Marshall School of Law churned out the most law degrees to political wannabes. Wasn't there also another downtown law school of old? As for Raoul's proposal - probably heard someone else suggest it.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Northwestern and Loyola are also listed (north of the Loop), but I don't know of those being political hotbeds.

    Maybe I was thinking too 1970s.

    Raoul's proposal seemed to be the more Hyde Parkers complaining "the train stops at 57th, but I can't get on." They should feel lucky that at least Metra (or was it then the IC?) moved its transfer point between local and express trains from 63rd to 57th. That must have been the semi-privileged portion of Hyde Park residents, excluding one stratum that takes the 6 bus and the other that has no need to go into the real world.

  • In reply to jack:

    You know for some reason I have Roosevelt University stuck in my brain and even though they were better known for their MBA's I think they also had a night program for law - could be wrong but many of the early pols did the night degree route. Just not sure which school; maybe Marshall?

    My wife used to take the Rock Island from Evergreen Park so I know they have that on the Southside; and there is the IC as well. But I suspect you are right - more about pandering than actual substance with this guy it seems.

  • The next political story du jour is that Brizard said that Emanuel is a control freak. I've said before that he turned out to be an unDemocrat, but this seems to describe it better.

    In the transit area (this post) it is exemplified by Claypool saying "no problem here, the Mayor is in charge and you can vote him out." But the mayor is not legally in charge. Also, otherwise, the mayor doesn't let Claypool speak.

    The other interesting thing is how things blow up when Emanuel is not in control, such as the teachers' strike situation described in that article, or the best he can do with the RTA is immobilize it. Of course, he realizes that he can't do anything about city and CPS pensions unless Springfield passes something, and if the school labor relations law case is any example, will pass something that is even worse (the legislation that a strike needed a 75% vote and had to go to a factfinder misnamed as an arbitrator only provided a clear procedural path for a strike).

  • In reply to jack:

    I read the Brizard story but when it comes to him well I take everything with a grain of salt (remember my post on him when he was announced as CPS head?). Brizard apparently was no different in addition to his failures in NY.

    But your Claypool analogy is spot on; Claypool is the Puppet Master's Puppet and proven himself to be nothing more than a political hack (too bad too because I actually liked him at one time for some perverse reason).

    Now the reason the shit hits the fan and blows up whenever Rahm doesn't intercede is because that is how he has set it up to be with his cadre of ass kissers and yes people.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    At the time I also doubt Brizard's qualifications, more on the basis that he was taking over a system 10 times as large as the one at which he didn't finish the job. But I guess he has collected enough of his severance to be critical.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "doesn't intercede." The examples I gave were of places where he tried to intercede, but didn't have the actual power to ram something through. The Daleys at least gave an impression of trying to make a deal (except with the 5th and occasionally 43rd Wards). Maybe there is a point that the time for that type of dealmaking is came to a close, but I don't think you can run the city on the basis of "I can ignore everyone and try to vote me out in 4 years," which is what Claypool confirmed.

  • In reply to jack:

    Probably a bad choice of words (should have been dictates) but the intent was about Rahm and not Brizard. He makes the decision, takes off and expects his hires to do as they are told without dissent.

    My concerns of Brizard coming here were the same as yours; I.e. not finishing the job where he came from.

  • I checked Roosevelt's website and no law is there.

    The IC is a strange animal in that unlike most Metra lines that are predominantly suburban, diesel, and only have a few city stops to serve suburbanites getting off in the city (including a new RI-35th one), the IC has been since about 1927 an electric train with high level platforms and numerous city stops, including a city only South Chicago branch. Apparently city traffic has atrophied, except for the 3 Hyde Park stations (53-Hyde Park, 57 and 59).

  • In reply to jack:

    I am probably thinking of Marshall or DePaul then; seem to have many political alumni.

    Yeah I am kind of unfamiliar with the history of the south side rail system; the only time I actually used any of them was to go to South Bend. Other than that and the Rock Island I am a total nitwit on the subject. But I can tell you all the intricacies of the old Ravenswood L lol. Had a blast on that starting from the age of 8.

    I do think you are right though regarding city traffic being atrophied especially in that part of town.

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