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RTA Board Member Quits After State Grant Controversy

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CHICAGO (STMW) – A South Side reverend, who was ordered in January to pay back a $91,000 state grant after he couldn’t account for how it was spent, resigned Wednesday from the Regional Transportation Authority.

The Rev. Tyrone Crider’s resignation comes about six months after he was reappointed to the RTA board by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Feb. 27. The RTA is the agency that oversees city and suburban transportation, including the scandal-plagued Metra commuter rail system.

Preckwinkle was unaware at the time she reappointed him that Crider had been sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and had been ordered by a Cook County Circuit Court judge on Jan. 11 to repay the state grant, said Kristen Mack, a spokeswoman for the County Board president.

Crider has yet to repay the funds, which was intended for youth programs, a Madigan spokesman said.

Preckwinkle said at a new conference Wednesday that protocols put in place by her office after she reappointed Crider would have required him to disclose the lawsuit.

Crider was first appointed to the RTA board five years ago by then Cook County President Todd Stroger, according to an RTA spokesman.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Crider said: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the RTA and its mission. I am also personally proud of my years of service with the RTA. In the interest of not distracting from that important work, I am resigning my position as an RTA Board member effective immediately.”

At a news conference Monday, Preckwinkle called Crider a “good and decent person.” She noted that his church was kitty-corner to her former South Side aldermanic offices.

Crider also came under fire in 2010 for selling $60,000 worth of advertisements in his Christian newspaper “Gospel Tribune” to Metra, Pace and CTA, all of which are agencies he helped regulate under the RTA umbrella. He said at the time he saw no problem in the ad sales.

Crider’s political connections are deep.

According to his bio on the RTA website, Crider led the national voter registration campaign for Jesse Jackson’s failed presidential bid. He also coordinated voter registration drives to help elect former Mayor Harold Washington.

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) wondered Wednesday what Crider had accomplished on the RTA board “besides to enrich himself.”

“The honorable thing would have been for him to step down. All of these things were public, remember. Or the board should have thrown him out.”

“The people who get placed on these boards are political people with friends in very high places. The system is designed to award cronies through this patronage political system.”

Franks suggested combining the RTA, CTA, PACE and Metra boards into a single governing body that’s filled with elected officials instead of appointees.

Crider’s resignation comes on the heels of a scandal at Metra spurred by the public disclosure that ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford felt he was being forced out of his job because he refused the patronage requests of House Speaker Mike Madigan and others. Clifford walked away with a severance package totaling up to $718,000.

Metra board members have said they approved the large sum to avoid a potentially costlier court battle with Clifford.

Critics called the payout “hush money” due to confidentiality clause tied to the deal. Clifford, however, was obliged to break his silence when he testified before the Regional Transportation Authority.

Two Metra board members have resigned in the past several days.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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