CHICAGO (CBS) – A south suburban political powerbroker who was appointed to the CTA board by Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this year has withdrawn his nomination, amid a controversy that had become the focus of the Democratic primary race for governor.
Quinn nominated Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli to the Chicago Transit Authority board earlier this year, taking advantage of a loophole in a state law barring transit board members from holding more than one government post. Zuccarelli is paid $128,000 a year for his Thornton Township post, and would have made an extra $25,000 a year on the CTA board.
The governor’s office has said the law prohibiting transit board members from holding paid federal, state, county or municipal jobs does not apply to township posts.
But Bill Daley, who is running against Quinn in the 2014 Democratic primary, said last week that Quinn’s appointment of Zuccarelli was “a disgrace,” given that Metra board chairman Brad O’Halloran had resigned earlier this month, amid revelations he was also drawing a paycheck as a village trustee in Orland Park.
“I think you also have the issue of the governor’s office having to come up with some legal rationale as to why this doesn’t violate the double-dipping law, and I think that’s just a lot of baloney,” Daley said.
Zuccarelli is also the Democratic committeeman in Thornton Township, and Daley accused Quinn of nominating Zuccarelli to ensure his political support.
Daley said, if Quinn would not withdraw his nomination of Zuccarelli, the Illinois Senate should reject the nomination.
In a letter to the governor on Tuesday, Zuccarelli said he was withdrawing from the nomination process.
“I greatly appreciate your expression of support and confidence in appointing me,” he wrote. “I agreed to serve with the singular purpose in mind – to be a strong advocate for meeting the mass transit needs of the residents of the south suburbs; a region whose commuters have been shortchanged for decades.”
His decision to withdraw comes just a day before the next CTA board meeting.
“Given the events of recent weeks, I do not want political grandstanding to distract from the critical issues or stand in the way of what people in the south suburbs need,” he added. “Therefore, it is with great regret that I ask you to withdraw my appointment to the CTA Board effective immediately.”
Quinn said he did not ask Zuccarelli to back away.
“He did that on his own,” Quinn said. But he said his next appointee also will be a south suburbanite.
“There have been people in Chicago who, frankly, have ignored the south suburbs and I’m not going to let that happen,” Quinn said.
Daley, in a written statement, applauded Zuccarelli for stepping down.
“Frank Zuccarelli had little choice but to do the honorable thing by resigning today, it’s unfortunate that Governor Quinn put him in this position in the first place,” Daley said.