Update: Metra Madigan Scandal Investigation Just Went Monty Python

Update: Metra Madigan Scandal Investigation Just Went Monty Python


According to the Springfield State Journal Register Patrick Collins has had to withdraw from investigating Metra due to a potential conflict of interest at the law firm where he is a partner. So much for whom I thought would be the best person to investigate the political and patronage shenanigans at Metra, eh? But hey, I still have an idea: perhaps we should establish The Average Joe and Josephine Citizens Tribunal to deal with our cadre of corrupt politicians and their appointed shadow government boards. And just to add a little spice to this tribunal we could do it with a twist since it now appears that the Metra Madigan Scandal Investigation Just Went Monty Python with today’s announcement.

Anyone remember the Spanish Inquisition Skit? Enjoy!

And in rebuttal to my choice of Monty Python skit selection Jack On The Bus has suggested I add Part of the Spanish Inquisition and his choice “The Parrot Shop” as being more spot on. Either way enjoy them all. Thanks Jack!

Original Post:

According to the Chicago Tribune today, “Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins has been asked to perform an independent investigation and make recommendations concerning patronage allegations and other issues raised by former Metra CEO Alex Clifford.”

To say that this is welcome news would be an understatement as Patrick Collins is likely to be the best person for a Metra Madigan Scandal Investigation. After all, not only has Collins built an impeccible record in fighting Illinois’ blatant pattern of political corruption, but he will probably do it before Metra dedicates a new rail station named Madiganistan.

Somehow, though, this latest brouhaha involving Metra shouldn’t come as any surprise given their long history of patronage. If you recall, Metra’s patronage came into a bad light after former Executive Director Philip Pagano decided it was easier to step in front of one of his trains rather than face a public investigation. I said at the time that I thought Metra, the Illinois Tollway Authority and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) were some of our worst examples of political patronage repositories.

Sadly, all three of these government agencies have a profound effect upon the taxpayers of Illinois. Unfortunately none of them have ever been shy about leaving them in the lurch and pay for the countless cost overruns or budget shortfalls associated with “the off-the-top-skimming” by greedy politicians and their well-connected insiders. And believe me, these actions are absolutely no different than what the Mob does whenever they are taking their shy.

Of course one can argue the fact of who is worse, the Mob or our Democratic Machine Politicians, but reality should tell us that they are one and the same. Besides our political history has proven that beyond a reasonable doubt over the many decades of “legal shakedowns.” Still the entire State of Illinois remains corrupt as sin, although nowhere is it worse than right here in the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

The Chicago Machine Democrats have run the whole show here for so long that I finally understand exactly what former Mayor Richard J. Daley meant when (to paraphrase) “why would I run for Governor? I am already more powerful than he is!” And if former President John F. Kennedy were still alive today he would probably tell you that he already knew that back in 1960 as he won one of the closest elections in U.S. history.

Chicago holds a very powerful grip upon the lives of all Illinoisans.

Perhaps the best example of that truth is how Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and his Madigoons have been able to dictate nearly every piece of legislation that passes through the Illinois Legislature for nearly 30 years. And that iron-fisted control makes Illinois more akin to a dictatorship than a Constitutional Democratic Republic. Of course from time to time we are fortunate and get some relief from the democratically stacked branches of government, but that is only when our politicians fear that their actions will spark a voter revolt. To get around that, though, the really obscene or controversial issues are simply locked-up in committee until the smoke clears until they have won reelection and/or if they know that a deciding vote in the 13th hour will not jeopardize their majority.

Is it Sneaky? Is it Slimy? Absolutely!

But you see, Michael Madigan and his crew seem to have no shame. I don’t think that they give a rat’s ass if what they are doing for themselves will hurt the taxpayers of Illinois or not. Their solution has always been rather clear and simple – just raise the fees and taxes to offset whatever shy they require. Never-mind about the fact that they are short-changing residents of the essential services and/or infrastructure funding. I hate to say it again folks –  but Illinois bears no resemblance to being a Constitutional Democratic Republic or that they are even a part in the sum of the whole. Illinois just seems to play by its own rules!

But the price for that mentality has been enormously high. All one has to do to measure the gravity of the situation is to look at our state’s shadow government and its slew of political appointments. They have not only siphoned-off nearly all the essential funds earmarked to run this state but continue to do so despite the dire condition of its treasury. So is it really any wonder that rating agencies have downgraded our credit rating? Not only is the State of Illinois broke but they are perilously close to bankruptcy.

As for former Metra CEO Alex Clifford? Well he was a relative political outsider (at least by the California standards he came from) before the likes of Michael Madigan and State Representative Luis Arroyo tried to indoctrinate and educate him on the “Chicago Way.” But I would hold off viewing him as some sort of dutiful whistle-blower as it appears that he was more than willing to try and rebuff those prying hands before having to give in at his agency before Metra contract was in jeopardy. Then, and only then, did he decide to squeal like a rat.

At least that’s the way I see it.

But I do give Alex Clifford some credit for showing us all how our government agencies are under siege by the powers that be. Look I have never been a prude about patronage. Matter of fact I even understand that patronage might not be all that bad so long as the workers given those choice jobs are actually putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Hell it worked well in places like Niles and Rosemont and even offered some nice benefits to the average taxpayer. But here’s the deal – it  just isn’t the 1960’s anymore and patronage has swollen to an unsustainable level. And it’s not just the pay we must consider because these jobs all come with those nifty neato pensions attached to them. And that could literally wind up soaking generations of taxpayers.

So you see? There’s that nasty Pension word again! But let’s call an ace an ace shall we? Why do you suppose our “multiple pension schemes” are in such serious trouble? Not only are there too many people taking from the public trough but all too often they are allowed to take from more than one! Naturally that just added to the misery after the Illinois Legislature reneged on keeping the pensions adequately funded. Talk about making things bad for the taxpayers but adding insult to injury the Illinois Legislature would, from time to time, open-up windows of opportunity for those in the know to scam the pension. You know? Like those fools working one day as a substitute teacher without even having the credentials to do so!

So while these things may not be specific to the current Metra situation, it does show that these issues are all interconnected and part of the bigger picture and problem. And still Illinois politicians continue to show their constituents that they have zero regard for them or the burden they must shoulder for the things they do. But what are going to do? Illinois voters have all too often been ignorant of what their elected officials have done to them and reelect them.

Seriously, though, the State of Illinois needs a major house cleaning and I think having Patrick Collins look into the Metra Madigan Scandal is nothing short of a good thing for the taxpayers who care about where their money goes. Of course the only thing better than Collins would be if the Feds were to be even more proactive in handing out indictments but given President Barack Obama’s ties to the city, well – let’s just say we won’t be seeing the Department of Justice or Eric Holder doing anything magnanimous around here when it comes to doing things the Chicago Way.

Of course we also have Illinois State’s Attorney Lisa Madigan, but she won’t remotely come close to doing her sworn duty either given that all roads seem to lead to her stepfather. And isn’t that just ironic given the fact that Lisa Madigan is the most popular Democratic vote-getter in the State of Illinois even though she has never once looked into the improprieties or conflicts of interests that may cast a negative light on this questionable enterprise known as the Illinois Legislature. Well so much for her being the champion of the people as some of our in-the-bag journalists have annointed her.

The real champions, though, are people like Patrick Collins, City of Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson and/or the Average Joe’s and Josephine’s of this state who are sick and tired of the political shenanigans being played around here as well as a patronage system sucking us dry and are willing to have their voices heard.

As for Patrick Collins?

Well I hope he blows the lid off this Metra Madigan Scandal Investigation.


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  • We went through this before, and I got into more detail on chicagobus.org, starting about here, and changing my view as more stuff came out.

    My final conclusion there is that while Collins is clean, O'Halloran endorsing the appointment doesn't pass the smell test. I implied similar with regard to Dan Webb being appointed special prosecutor in the Koschman case.

    There was just a radio report that Madigan said that the Legislative Ethics Commission could investigate it, and go at it. In that they are appointed by the 4 Tops (and thus 2 members by Madigan), I'm sure that is going to be real effective :-).

    By now I have concluded that Lisa is not worthy of reelection. It is clear that she has done nothing about corruption, or nearly anything else other than to piggy back on federal actions by applying the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act. Her evasive news conferences the past few days just reinforces that. After the Daily Herald article on her pulling out of the Governor's race, some Daily Herald writer posted a Facebook comment on "tell us about her accomplishments" to which someone replied, "you tell us if she has any."

    As far as political patronage, I'm surprised you didn't bring up CTA. The only difference is that the incompetents running the CTA haven't figured out how to steal to the extent of Metra. However, I'm sure that if John Cullerton told his neighbor Forrest Claypool to hire someone, Claypool wouldn't be complaining.

    Since you brought up pensions again, apparently the problem is not unique to Illinois. The Tribune just had a report that some judge in Lansing, Michigan tried to enjoin the financial overseer from pursuing the Detroit bankruptcy, because of a state constitution pension clause. However, as the article points out, that state litigation is going to be subject to a bankruptcy court stay (and it probably already is), and maybe that judge does not know about the Supremacy Clause.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hey Jack thanks for your comment, always love hearing your take. I see your point, or is that skepticism with O'Halloran but here is my take - he has no choice if he wants to keep his plum job. But you are definitely correct that Madigan's Ethic Commission would be useless (ethics? oxymoron right?).

    My opinion of Webb is on hold until I see what is what. I think he can do the right thing but have a feeling there are other forces in play there. But Collins or Ferguson? I still like them, at least for their doggedness, which of course could ruin many a career without so much as a conviction. Perception is a strong equalizer so I am not so worried about those two.

    As for the CTA and CPS, well yes the patronage is there although I suspect they have been picked clean over the years. After all conductors are now non-existent on L trains and bus drivers have been cut in half since the good ole days. CPS? Still needs patronage cuts but the three I mentioned was really more about where the old cows go to feed in the field if you catch my drift? But you make a good point although I think the sweetheart deals given insiders hurt those two even more than staff.

    Yeah Lisa Madigan is one of the Madigoons for sure and has accomplished nuthin' so far as I am concerned except for what you pointed out.

    Forest Claypool will always be Forest Claypool I guess, but sometimes I think he has a conscience (not always but sometimes - kinda like Tom Dart you know?)

    Detroit, wow, yeah this will be an interesting watch as it could be a portent for Illinois as you rightly point out. Have to see what happens but agree that Judge knows the Supremacy Clause.

    Hope all is good with you my friend. This heat is oppressive and preventing me from getting some of my chores done. Anyhow, thanks for the comments as always.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    In reverse order:

    Air conditioner is barely keeping up, but is.

    Claypool only fares well vs. Stroger or Barrios, but is basically nothing but a corporate speak incompetent. Apparently his Rise Health system couldn't make it so he is back on the public payroll. Also, with regard to patronage, I didn't mean bus drivers or customer service assistants, but people in the Communications Dept.(especially) and other HQ jobs.

    The question on Collins is whether he can shed enough disinfectant light, but the only real test is whether a real U.S. Attorney is going to be appointed and the FBI gets warrants to start hauling files out of the Metra office. In any event, the Metra board (and certainly O'Halloran) should have resigned by now, but apparently O'Halloran is attempting the CTA course of sending out press releases, without the effect the CTA gets. But I guess O'Halloran really needs the $25K/year stipend, or is milking Metra for something else.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think everyone's air conditioning is straining right now. Our Central Air unit has been running non-stop it seems. I hear ya.

    Funny thing about Claypool - did you know he was one of the first politicians to follow my Twitter feed and blog? I think he is better than Berrios and /or Stroger for sure. What I meant about comparison to Dart was that I think both want to do a job but know they must play the game (and of course that sets up the conflict). But I don't find them inherently evil like so many of our politicians. But yeah, I get you, they are career politicians no doubt and with it comes a certain distrust. And you know me - I have a hard time trusting any of them!

    As for Collins, well let's see what he uncovers and how he handles it. I am sure he still has mucho connections to the Northern District office in the event subpoenas, warrants or indictments are required. So I am more than willing to give him a chance a benefit of the doubt.

    You do, however, bring up something bigger about O'Halloran and that is worth exploring. As you say, a 25k stipend isn't exactly earth shattering so there has to be a bigger pot at the end of Metra's rainbow. Good point sir.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    On Claypool, I said on the CTA Tattler that there is one transit agency that is politically corrupt (Metra), another that is political and incompetent (CTA), a third that is admittedly toothless (RTA), and maybe Pace should take over everything, except Brad Stephens was just appointed to its board. The $15,000 or whatever salary is certainly not going to be worth his time.

    The problems with Claypool are that (a) he does not meet the statutory requirement that the Executive Director have transportation experience (b) he shows the Emanuel administration technique (as some other person put it) of authoritarian progressivism (such as holding hearings on canceling buses on Lincoln Ave, and sending out Terry Peterson to say "we listened" when they didn't), and (c) while claiming to fix the system has really put it in hock (as exemplified that he submitted a budget with all that debt a month late with a printed timeline that the RTA would approve it in one day, which it did not), while nothing stays fixed.

    Similarly, Dart seems clean, but there isn't any indication that he has forsaken the Sheehan political operation, and Preckwinkle keeps calling him on claiming he can't cut is budget, but isn't doing anything about absenteeism. Preckwinkle also seems clean but has no problem with Barrios.

    You raise the interesting question whether Collins is really working for Metra or the U.S. Attorney.

    Finally, there is today's Zorn column where his sexual infatuation with Lisa only takes a small hit, saying her brand may be tarnished, but not for any particular reason, as she is a grown up woman and Mikey had always done stuff like that. I don't think I am mischaracterizing it. There is another Tribune story today about what O'Halloran has been into, including whether he was trying to steer business to a Wintrust bank in which he is a director. Sounds like another Stu Levine or Tony Rezko as far as being in both the political underground and surface. At least we know what Huggins's angle is.

  • In reply to jack:

    Certainly can't argue with your summation of Claypool, it is fair given his actions while at CTA. Of course he takes his marching orders from higher up and probably just wants to have that patronage job that leads to a nice pension down the line. All in all I kind of see him as a neutral politician, neither overtly evil or eminently qualified. Just rags it out I guess - at least he puts in the hours.

    Dart isn't a 100% clean but probably as close as it gets in Illinois. As you say he hasn't exactly forsaken the Sheehan Tribe. But Precki I think is sneakier than you might think. She talks a good game yet has had a few of her backroom deals made public. The fact that she sees nothing wrong with Mr. Nepotism of the Century, Joseph Berrios should tell you mounds about her ethics and character. I say don't be fooled by the image she portrays on Chicago Tonight - look at the image of her and Berrios standing side by side at the public trough.

    Like you, I wonder what's what with Metra but as I said earlier - I will give Collins the benefit of the doubt given his past deeds and his connections to the Northern District. I really don't think he would jeopardize his image as much as the Metra Board would like him to. But hey - we'll see right? Just like Webb - it isn't over yet with the Koschman case, we just aren't seeing what he is doing behind the scenes right now.

    Zorn I have never had much use for him or his style. Then again, he isn't as obnoxious and flaky as Steinberg or as super liberal Roeper who can't seem to see daylight in a treeless forest.

    Lisa Madigan? People may like her given the vote numbers but I think she is a disgrace to the office as much as Anita Alveraz is to hers. Too bad too I used to like Anita until she showed her true colors instead of the earlier conviction to her ethos. I dunno maybe both were turned into Jeckyll and Hydes by the mere nature of the way The Combine operates. But both these women have serious character issues in my opinion.

    O'Halloran? Typical Machine/Combine opportunist!

  • After Internet chatter about the special meeting being cancelled, the Tribune reported that Collins pulled out, because his firm has a conflict of interest, so we keep going back to square one. Also mentioned that Collins had prosecuted Udsten for tax evasion related to a Metra procurement scandal.

  • In reply to jack:

    S-H-I-T! That sucks, yeah back to square one. Oh well we could always set up an Average Joe and Josephine Tribunal based on the Spanish Inquistition based on the Saturday Night Skit from long ago. http://youtu.be/Tym0MObFpTI

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    The link was to Monty Python, which said "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." And whoever gets this investigation won't have the element of surprise.

    But this investigation might be like the "Norwegian Blue," which was not "pining for the fjords," but a "dead Polly."

  • In reply to jack:

    Perhaps we can both be right as my assertion has always been that out less than illustrious flim flam artists have practiced their corruption in a most arrogant way and when they do get caught - well, they are still shocked as hell and start proclaiming their innocence while informing the world of their big balls. Never-the-less they still put on the surprised act. But I will give a big kudo here as I have somehow forgotten this great skit. And I am even going to add it below the Spanish Inquisition one as your rebuttal. Thanks bud. Still laughing as I write this.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Going over the clips again, maybe this turns out like when the Spanish Inquisition puts the woman in the comfy chair.

    I'm not convinced that Madigan & Co. wouldn't buy off the citizens committee. Anyway, there is a Spanish Inquisition Part 2 link on the Monty Python YouTube page, and it might turn out like the trial at the end of which the Spanish Inquisition gets on a double decker bus and can't get to the Old Bailey in time (or at least before the closing credits run).

    The only thing that would be convincing is the feds looking into it, and the dissenting Metra director from McHenry said that because of federal transportation money. DOT probably already is. However, not even Judge Zagel has the option of auto de fe (again mentioned in Part 2).

  • In reply to jack:

    You know, you are probably right in that Madigan would buy off someone on a citizen's tribunal given his under-handedness in running the state. Now you also raise a very valid point in that there are Federal Dollars involved and that should open another shit-box of inquiry. Then again Dick Durbin would probably weigh in and try and deflect that from reaching Transportation. Not sure about Zagel given the revelation he is on the "secret tribunal." Who in the hell knows what he is up to but anything done in secrecy where government is involved can't be good.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    I only referred to Zagel as being on the Blago and related trials.

    I don't see how Durbin would intercept the inquiry, or it would be in his interest to do so. Supposedly, there was a DOT inquiry when the Pagano situation occurred.

  • In reply to jack:

    My only thought on Zagal is that wow we didn't even know what he was up to until it slipped out in the media. He was very evasive as to what this tribunal does and that makes me curious that's all.

    Durbin, well come on we know Durbin, he will stick his nose into anything if asked by the state leadership. Somehow he has relished in the role of issue deflector at times.

    Last but not least DOT probably told Metra to clean up their act after Pagano and that, we now know, hasn't been done. So to think there could be repercussions, well it could happen since the state's greatest supporter of transportation in Washington has stepped down and retired?

  • Durbin seems more of the type of holding a news conference to announce some grant that the state was going to get anyway. I'm not so sure that he would play along with state leadership if that would interfere with that supposed role. Not to say that I haven't voted for Durbin's opponent whenever I could.

  • In reply to jack:

    Dunno, remember that fiasco with Roland Burris? First he calls for him to step down then acquiesces to racist remarks by Bobby Rush and state leadership? Then he says "I'll work with him after all a vote is vote?" http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-02/news/0903020282_1_sen-roland-burris-seating-racial

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    That's true, but he wasn't going to get on the Senate floor and say expel the guy. On the other hand, that does remind me that the way he put the onus on Jesse White resulted in me voting for White and against Durbin. I usually voted against White because he couldn't figure out that 7 digit license plates make it impossible for bystanders to identify any car, but I made an exception in this case to stick it to Durbin, and, of course, the advocate of "Sign, Jesse, Sign," Eric Zorn.

    BTW, big surprise, Deb Mell is now the aldercreature for life. One fewer vote for gay marriage, though, I suppose.

  • In reply to jack:

    For sure Jack and I also didn't like how he put the onus on Jesse White. Now White has had a few issues in his closet but I never considered him on of the real bad guys you know? I guess he is palpable to me at least most times although I find it funny how he puts up those signs at the DMV saying "it wasn't me who raised the fees" so funny but then again he puts it right back out there. So good for him.

    As for Deb Mell - DA FIX was in.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    It was just said on the radio "Deb Mell was joined by her wife ---, as well as her sister, former first lady Patty Blaogjevich." I wonder where her brother in law was? We know.

    Maybe like King George the VII (8 lbs., 6 oz.), Amy Blagojevich is in the line of succession, unless Deb's wife conceives.

  • In reply to jack:

    Now that's funny

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Wasn't meant to be.

  • In reply to jack:

    Are you sure there wasn't a hidden zap in there? The Blagojevich name for all intents and purposes is mud in Illinois and Deb's wife conceiving? And who's the donor? Rod? Like I said if you weren't trying to lay a beauty in there then you definitely caould have a career ahead of you as a great straight man. Then again maybe my mind oh so twisted today. Sorry pal.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Apparently others have come up with the same conclusion. Kass has been writing about "Chicago has royal babies too" including the "Debonheiress of Mellatonia."

    Then, tonight Fox 32 news ended 5 minutes early, and there was someone on a throne congratulating Prince George, but saying that unlike Illinois, the royals are symbolic and power has been given to the people. Otherwise, the routine was similar to Kass's. I thought it was a Rutherford commercial or the like, but it turns out it was an editorial by the station manager. He did mention who was going to be born as the heir to Mike Madigan's power.

    I'm not going to say that great minds think alike. However, except for my reference to the Debonheiress's wife, there seems to be a constant thread here.

  • In reply to jack:

    Indeed there is. Thanks for sharing that missed em both.

  • Hell, if you want to get into the world of the bizarre, take the report that Joe Moore was going to get a Presidential political reform award until it was revealed that the city council toothless inspector general and the FBI are investigating him for essentially the Metra violation--paying off a whistleblower. Huffington Post column, with a rogue's gallery of Illinois corruption.

  • In reply to jack:

    Oh yeah thanks for reminding. What a nimrod.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    But a phony one. Elmer Fudd was a nimrod.

    Back to your pension point and my point on the brain dead Michigan judge in Lansing, the bankruptcy court stayed all actions. The distinction seems to have been that while actions against Detroit itself were automatically stayed, a separate stay was needed of suits against individual state officers, such as the governor.

    The point for Illinois appears to be that while there isn't provision for a state to go bankrupt, any state constitutional guaranty of municipal pensions (such as Chicago Teachers) is going to be subject to the bankruptcy court's power. I had mentioned that there is a Supremacy Clause.

  • In reply to jack:

    Indeed you did say there was a Supremacy Clause. And I think anyone banking on their municipal pension better realize that all can be lost. Perhaps that notion will get both sides thinking about a reasonable solution because right now its unsustainable.

  • Back to the original topic, and my conclusion that tapping Collins didn't meet the smell test.

    The Tribune editorial on that the Metra board should resign takes the position that "O'Halloran & Co. want to spend $150,000 to hire a big-name investigator to absolve them of wrongdoing."

  • In reply to jack:

    Well I have say you had it pegged for sure; but between you and I put very little credence to anything the Tribune Editorial Board has to say given their report the hell of it -discredit them - and then endorse them. Patrick Collins in my mind, though would still have been the right guy and considering he just joined that law firm I seriously doubt a conflict of interest existed as he had no part in it. Seems everyone got played by Metra's O'Halloran.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    Note that it was never said that Collins himself had the conflict of interest; it was the firm itself that had a "potential" one.

    Since about the 1980s, law firms are supposed to have a "China Wall" system. As currently implemented, it is a database of all clients and opponents and a new client is run against it to see if there could be a conflict, i.e. the firm is representing someone with an opposing litigation stance to the potential client.

    Also, the news reports stated that the first review didn't show anything, but someone called the firm over the weekend and brought the potential conflict to the firm's attention.

    Since most firms are partnerships (or some similar form of organization) one partner's situation is attributed to all partners, and Collins was a partner.

    Since an attorney-client relationship was never formed, we won't know where the potential conflict was. Besides "investigations and white collar defense" (one of Collins's specialties) the firm also does "Government Relations" (i.e. lobbying).

  • In reply to jack:

    Learned something new my friend; never heard of the China Wall. Thanks for illuminating me and others. Great to know.

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