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CHICAGO (CBS) – The executive inspector general of the State of Illinois is about to gain oversight power over Chicago area transit agencies.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports, the move is part of a new law written in the wake of the irregularities that led to the suicide of former Metra executive director Phil Pagano. The law was approved late last year.
But even with the new state law, the Pace suburban bus agency has just decided to hire its own inspector general.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Bob Roberts reports
Metra is folding up the office it has spent nearly $1 million to create and opened with such fanfare in May 2010, less than three weeks after Pagano’s death. But Pace will move ahead, on a much simpler level.
Metra brought in the security consulting firm of Hillard-Heintze LLC, headed by former Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard, to investigate both irregularities tied to Pagano and other questionable practices at the commuter rail agency. Hillard-Heintze was prepared to help Metra hire a permanent inspector general before the Metra board decided to transfer all remaining cases to the state executive inspector general.
At Metra, Pagano was in line to be fired last year, upon the discovery that he improperly took $475,000 in vacation pay over the course of 11 years after forging Metra chairman Carole Doris’ signature. But before any action was taken, he stepped in front of Metra train in Crystal Lake and committed suicide.
At Pace, spokesman Patrick Wilmot said the inspector general will be a one-person office. Instead of using pricey consultants and recruiters, Pace’s board will select the inspector general.
“There are a couple of advantages to having a person on site, here at Pace,” Wilmot said. “Not only is there a single point of contact between the state (executive) IG and Pace, but there’s also someone here on site if someone has a concern that they would like to address with someone in person.”
Some open government advocates question the effectiveness of inspectors general chosen by, and reporting to, an agency’s board.
The Chicago Transit Authority has had an inspector general’s office since 1999. It also will remain in operation, reporting to the state executive inspector general.