Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Regional Transportation Authority board has called Metra’s chairman to appear at a special meeting July 10 to discuss the decision by the commuter rail agency’s board to approval a controversial severance agreement with CEO Alex Clifford.
The RTA is the financial oversight agency for Metra, the CTA and Pace.
Metra’s board approved the resignation June 21 by a vote of 9-1. He gets a buyout of more than $442,000 covering the salary for the remainder of his contract, along with a severance payment, health insurance, relocation and attorney fees.
Terms of the agreement have forbidden board members to speak about it, except with oversight bodies. The agreement also will be the subject of legislative hearings.
The controversy over the terms of Clifford’s resignation make a south suburban lawmaker confident over a bill that would mandate legislative review of future Metra fare increases.
State Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields) authored the bill, which would require hearings by the Mass Transit and Transportation Committees on any Metra fare hike. The bill won approval 79-39 in the House in mid-April but has languished in the State Senate until now.
Despite that, Riley said he is hearing interest in his bill grow with every new revelation about Clifford’s separation agreement. But he said he is willing to be patient about the bill.
“After everything that has transpired over the past few weeks, I think I’ll have no problem passing the bill next year,” he said.
Riley said the next Metra CEO must be someone who has a sense of fairness, and will let no area go underserved. He said Metra also must look harder at ways beside fare hikes to raise revenues, and not assume that it will be able to merely pass along cost-of-living fare increases to riders, as Clifford hoped to do.
Clifford resigned under pressure June 21 even though eight months remained on his three-year contract. Riley said the separation agreement will be the subject of upcoming Mass Transit Committee hearings.