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Former Metra Boss Lands New Job With California Bus System

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(CBS) – Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford has a new job, and his former transit agency is off the hook for more than $200,000 of the compensation promised in the controversial severance agreement that sent him packing.

Terms of the agreement, though, mean that Clifford won’t see his last check from Metra until August 2015.

Clifford’s new employer is California’s Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, a bus-only operation that carries fewer passengers in a year than Metra does in a bad month.

The vote by the Santa Cruz Metro board was not unanimous, although spokesperson Liseth Guizar said the two dissenting board members had questions about the contract terms, not about Clifford.

Santa Cruz Metro runs 30 routes, has a fleet of 150 buses and vans, has 350 employees, a yearly budget of $45 million and carries 6 million riders a year.

It’s a step down from Metra, which operates 703 trains a day over 11 lines, has 241 stations, owns 146 locomotives, has a fleet of 837 bi-levels and 181 Electric District Highliners; 2,300 employees; a yearly operating budget of $728.6 million; and carried 82.3 million riders in 2013.

And that’s why Clifford won’t see his last check from Metra for a while.

Terms of the severance agreement require Metra to pay Clifford in full through August. After that, the commuter rail agency must pay the difference between his $252,500-a-year Chicago pay and his $181,000-a-year Santa Cruz pay.

A Metra spokesman told WBBM it is anticipated that Metra will be able to escape approximately $202,000 of what it potentially owed Clifford under terms of the separation agreement, a figure that’s not hard and fast because it provides up to $78,000 to pay moving expenses and closing costs on a new home in California. Those figures have not been submitted for payment.

That means the divorce between Clifford and Metra — besides the messy publicity that abated only when Metra’s response to Chicago’s bitter winter shifted the ire of riders — will cost roughly $669,000.

Clifford left after making accusations of political interference. The resulting tumult led to a turnover of more than half the Metra board of directors, along with changes in top management. Ironically, Guizar said, the Santa Cruz Metro board considered Clifford’s rocky exit in Chicago a sign of integrity.

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