Former Metra CEO May be Headed to California

Severance package with Metra has Alex Clifford receiving $300,000 if he doesn't have a new job by August

Metra, and ultimately taxpayers, stand to save a big chunk of money if former CEO Alex Clifford lands a new job in California.

A transit agency in California on Friday will vote on a five-year-contract for Clifford, who resigned last year in the wake of a scandal that eventually replaced six members of the board. If the members of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District approve him, Clifford would begin the new job May 17, when current general manager Leslie White's contract expires.

Under his severance agreement, Clifford stands to receive $300,000 if he doesn't have a new job by August. Clifford, a California native, was making $252,000 per year in his Metra role.

"I enjoyed serving Metra as their CEO and would have enjoyed continuing to serve in that capacity, but unfortunately Illinois' political environment made that impossible," Clifford was quoted by the Santa Cruz Sentinel as saying.

Clifford was removed from his job after complaining of political meddling in Metra’s inner workings. But the agency’s board agreed to pay him a lavish severance package worth well over $800,000 rather than face a potential lawsuit. Critics complained the deal reeked of hush money, and Regional Transportation Authority auditors said the move was foolhardy because Metra had insurance which would have more than covered the cost of any litigation.

In an April 3, 2013 memo, Clifford recounted several alleged episodes of patronage politics and asked board members to back him against what he said were efforts to force him out for not playing along.

Clifford took the Metra job after then-CEO Phil Pagano committed suicide in May 2010. Metra has since hired Don Orseno as head of the commuter rail agency.

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