CHICAGO (WBBM) — Metra’s board is narrowing the list of candidates to become the agency’s executive director, replacing the late Phil Pagano, who committed suicide in Mary amid allegations of financial improprieties.

As Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports, the Metra board has spent two days behind closed doors interviewing applicants for the job, and will have more discussions Friday.

No matter who is selected, the next executive director is likely to face a different landscape from the one that allowed Pagano to run the agency with an autocratic hand for 20 years.

Chairman Carole Doris told WBBM that the board’s expectations are being made clearly to candidates: “Increased oversight and communication between the executive director and the board at all levels and in all subject areas.”

She said that each of the candidates has outstanding operating credentials. But each also has undergone extensive background checks to determine if their personal and business dealings are squeaky-clean.

Doris has said that the continuing revelations about Pagano’s financial dealings have surprised her and others at Metra.

Metra any day expects to get a report from the consulting firm of Blackman Kallick, LLP on executive compensation that will help guide such decisions, including the pay and perks to be granted to Pagano’s successor, who now is expected to be named next month.

Pagano had a number of perks not granted to ordinary Metra employees, including a $1 million payout at age 60 for remaining on the job. As executive director, he granted certain officials cash-outs on unused vacation and sick pay, although it was against Metra policy to do so.

Asked if such practices will be tolerated in the future by Metra’s board, Doris said bluntly, “That’s not good government.”

Pagano faced dismissal for allegedly forging documents giving him an advance on unused vacation pay, which he took whether he worked the days or not. An audit earlier this year determined that he may have pocketed as much as $475,000 in improper payments.

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