CHICAGO (CBS) — The Regional Transportation Authority is putting the finishing touches on a sharply critical audit of former Metra CEO Alex Clifford’s severance agreement – and says the commuter rail agency could have gotten out of the contract for a fraction of the potential $718,000 cost, reports WBBM’s Bob Roberts.

The focus is an insurance policy that Metra bought earlier this year for $98,000, which has a $150,000 deductible. It specifically covers whistle-blowers’ suits of the type Clifford threatened.

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Metra officials have portrayed the situation as a choice between the severance agreement and the threatened lawsuit, which could have cost $3 million to defend.

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The draft audit says the insurance policy would have provided a third alternative, but was not considered in a muddle of outside attorneys and public relations people.

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In a statement, RTA Chairman John Gates calls the Metra Board’s deliberative process “flawed” and the settlement imprudent.