CHICAGO (CBS) — Metra’s new chairman wants to give the commuter rail agency’s board the power to hire top employees, but some on its board see it as a patronage grab.

The Metra board would have the say-so only over appointees who would make more than $75,000 a year.

Long-time Metra director Jack Schaffer, a former legislator, said he views the proposal as a way to give board members patronage power, and said he wanted no part of it. Fellow director William Widmer agreed.

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That angered Chairman Brad O’Halloran.

“To say this is some form of patronage, I take offense to that,” said O’Halloran, who said he sees the power as a much-needed reform.

Director Mike McCoy called the patronage accusation “ridiculous.”

Metra’s attorney argued that two different consultants urged such a change in 2010 when documenting abuses by former Executive Director Phil Pagano.

O’Halloran shelved the measure for a month, to allow time for more discussion.

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