Metra Board Member Resigns

Mike McCoy criticizes ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford in resignation letter

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The latest developments in the Metra saga include House Speaker Michael Madigan inviting the Legislative Ethics Committee to fully vet his role, Metra's chairman calling for an independent investigation and the resignation of a Metra Board member.

    This is the day the shoes officially started dropping at Metra, as Mike McCoy, the Kane County representative on the Metra board submitted his resignation, effective immediately.

    "I no longer have the time or desire to continue serving," McCoy said, in his letter tendered to Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen. "I want you to be assured that the remaining Metra senior management staff are excellent and dedicated employees."

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    Former CEO Alex Clifford says his refusal to play politics led to his dismissal. Phil Rogers reports.

    In his letter, McCoy said recently-ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford had to go.

    "After Clifford threatened to sue the Metra Board over our adopted review procedure, I no longer supported giving him a contract extension," he wrote. "I do not believe this type of person should be in charge of the agency."

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    The former CEO of the Metra commuter rail service spoke publicly Wednesday about the controversy surrounding his resignation and allegations of political clout being used to affect hiring within the agency. Michelle Relerford reports.

    Clifford wrote a memo April 3, saying he had been pressured by House Speaker Michael Madigan to promote one employee and hire another. He said the current and former chairmen of the agency expressed fear that refusal to play ball with Madigan would jeopardize Metra funding.

    Clifford was the beneficiary of a controversial payout which may top $700,000, after he threatened to sue over his dismissal.

    McCoy said he voted to support the Clifford severance package, strictly on the basis of the numbers.

    "I felt the financial risk of litigating and possibly losing the Clifford threatened lawsuit far outweighed the cost of the settlement," he wrote. "I believe this even more strongly today."

    Metra staff initially balked at releasing Clifford's memo, only doing so in the face of mounting public and legislative outrage over the size of the payout.

    "I never believed for a second the April 3 Clifford memo outlining his threatened lawsuit should or would be kept secret," he said. "Immediately after Clifford's resignation, I pushed strongly for its release."

    "I felt far too much energy and resources were being spent by him and the board on this issue, instead of the more important business of running a commuter railroad," he added. "I felt this had to stop."

    Kane County chairman Chris Lauzen had nothing but praise for McCoy as he accepted his resignation, but he conceded that Clifford had raised troubling allegations.

    "This is part of the pattern or tapestry of Illinois," he said. "It's more of what we don't like so much."

    Lauzen said he hoped the Metra scandals would not cause the thousands of commuters in his region, to fall victim to the political interests of Chicago.

    "This controversy should not be used as an excuse to pull Metra tighter into the grip of the political culture that is exercised in Chicago and Springfield," he said.

    The Kane County Chairman said he was unsure of his timing in finding McCoy's replacement, saying he would invite applicants for the job. But he joked that finding those interested in a spot on the board may be a tall order.

    "The problem that I see is you almost prove that you need your head examined if you apply for this position."

    Earlier Friday, Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran announced that he was bringing in former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins for a top to bottom investigation of the Clifford allegations. And House Speaker Michael Madigan invited the Legislative Ethics Committee to fully vet his role.

    "I am confident that my actions were not inappropriate, or violate of any applicable law or ethical rule," Madigan wrote.