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Quinn Taps Fitzgerald, Former CTA Chair For Transit Reform Panel

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed former U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and former CTA Board chair Carole Brown to a panel tasked with recommending reforms for the Chicago area’s public transit agencies, in the wake of patronage allegations at Metra.

The governor issues an executive order Thursday, creating the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force.

The 15-member panel was ordered to develop ways to overhaul the four mass transit agencies in the Chicago area — CTA, Metra, Pace and the RTA, which oversees the budgets for the other three — to prevent fraud and waste.

The task force members include Brown, who was chair of the CTA board for more than six years under former Mayor Richard M. Daley; and Fitzgerald, who entered private practice last year, after nearly 11 years as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor — during which time he led the successful prosecutions of former Governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

The panel will be co-chaired by Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, and Metropolis Strategies CEO George Ranney Jr., who led the task force that created the Regional Transportation Authority in 1974.

“It’s clear that the mass transit system in northeastern Illinois is not working for taxpayers,” Quinn said in a written statement. “This task force is a step forward to make our transit system worthy of the public’s trust.”

The move comes in the wake of the resignation of four Metra board members, after former Metra CEO Alex Clifford claimed he was forced out of his job because he resisted political patronage requests from House Speaker Michael Madigan and others. Metra board members were forced to explain a severance package worth up to $750,000 for Clifford.

Since Clifford’s ouster, four Metra board members have resigned, and a fifth has been asked to do so. Two RTA board members also have resigned since July 31, as has a CTA board member.

The state’s executive inspector general, and the General Assembly’s legislative inspector general both are looking into Clifford’s allegations.

Quinn’s task force has been directed to recommend possible legislation to reform oversight of the mass transit agencies before the fall veto session, and to make a final report by Jan. 31.