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Lawmaker Seeks ‘Wholesale Change’ At Metra After Latest Scandal

“We need to find out if Metra is corrupt to its core,” state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said.
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A state lawmaker thinks the Metra chairman’s violation of a ban on outside government pay should be the last straw for the entire Metra board.

WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said the entire board needs to go, and he wants Gov. Pat Quinn to wipe the slate clean at the Metra board and the Regional Transportation Authority.

“I’m advocating wholesale change. I think the governor needs to clean house. I think he ought to put in an emergency manager over at Metra, and I think it gives us a perfect opportunity to revamp all four of our transit agencies,” he said, referring to the RTA, and the three transit agencies it oversees: Metra, the CTA, and Pace.

Franks has previously called for the entire Metra board to resign, and has criticized the RTA’s oversight of Metra.

“They don’t have any teeth. All they can do is approve or disapprove Metra’s budget. They don’t even have line-item authority. So it’s illusory to say that RTA has oversight, because in reality they really don’t,” Franks said. “We need to find out if Metra is corrupt to its core.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back, according to Franks, was the revelation that Metra chairman Brad O’Halloran received approximately $22,000 in salary as an elected village trustee in Orland Park, despite a state law prohibiting Metra board members from being paid for other government work.

That news comes after Metra was under fire for a severance package worth up to $750,000 for former CEO Alex Clifford, who has alleged he was pressured on hiring and pay raise decisions by top politicians, including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Franks said it’s time to change state law so the directors at Metra and the RTA are elected, rather than being political appointees.

“I think this might be the impetus that Springfield finally needs to say ‘Enough is enough, We’re going to stop this government by cronyism,’” Franks said.

O’Halloran said he wrote a check to Orland Park, after learning the village paid his trustee salary into a deferred compensation plan, despite his formal request to halt his pay in December.

Metra said he notified the agency’s ethics officer, who then told its inspector general.

A spokesman for the governor said he could only remove a Metra director after a report from the inspector general, and a public hearing.

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