Updated 08/16/13 – 11:19 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Plagued by scandal and a series of resignations, the Metra board met Friday, with barely enough members to get any work done.
It was the first board meeting since former CEO Alex Clifford left Metra, and claimed he was forced out for resisting political patronage requests from House Speaker Michael Madigan and others.
Clifford was given a lucrative severance package – worth up to $750,000 – raising questions of whether the deal was hush money. Two state inspectors general are investigating Clifford’s allegations.
WBBM’s Bernie Tafoya reports the board has been left reeling, with five of its eleven members having resigned in recent weeks.
With six members left, the board has just enough members to have a quorum. If one more board member were to leave, or be unable to attend a meeting, the board would be unable to attend a meeting, the board could not take any official action.
Acting chairman Jake Partelow breathed a sigh of relief and said “Thank the Lord” when the board’s secretary announced all six remaining members were present for Friday’s meeting, constituting a quorum.
The board already is two members shy of the eight needed to elect a new permanent chairman, or select a new CEO.
DuPage County Board Chariman Dan Cronin, who has the power to fill the vacant DuPage County seat on the board, addressed the council with his concerns about a new Metra board.
“I’m afraid that it may be too Chicago-centric. I’m here because I want to make sure there’s a fair and equitable distribution of precious transit dollars,” he said.
The board is supposed to have one member each from DuPage, McHenry, Will, Lake, and Kane counties; one member from Chicago; and five members from suburban Cook County.
The latest board member to quit was Stanley Rakestraw, who represented Cook County’s southern suburbs. He had lived in Flossmoor, but moved to Chicago after a fire at his suburban home, so was no longer eligible for the seat he held.
Meantime, Gov. Pat Quinn has formed a 15-member task force to recommend reforms for Metra and the other three transit agencies in the Chicago area – the CTA, Pace, and the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the finances of Metra, Pace and the CTA.
“We have to have a public transit system that works for the public, and that’s what this task force is all about,” Quinn said. “There has to be complete oversight of the northeastern Illinois public transit system; clearly there’s been breakdowns that have harmed riders, as well as taxpayers.”
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is among the members of the governor’s task force.