Metra Chairman Defends Ex-CEO's Big Payout

Alex Clifford resigned last month with severance potentially reaching $740,000

Metra's chairman on Wednesday defended the cushy severance package given to the transit agency's outgoing CEO, saying it was less expensive than fighting a lawsuit and denying rumors the big payout amounted to hush money.

"There have been a lot of aspersions cast at me and the board. But the problem is most of the critics have been flat-out wrong," Brad O’Halloran said regarding the settlement agreement reached between Metra and Alex Clifford, who resigned late last month.

Clifford, whose contract was scheduled to expire next February, will receive $442,237 in a buyout of the three-year deal. Additionally, he'll receive another $300,000 if he can't find a new job within the next 13 months. Clifford was making $252,500 a year.

In a meeting before Regional Transportation Authority officials on Wednesday, O'Halloran said Clifford threatened to sue Metra on allegations of corruption when he was told earlier this year that his contract would not be renewed.

"While we think we could have won a lawsuit, it would have taken years and cost millions of dollars in attorneys fees and time on the part of our employees," O'Halloran said. "We have more important things to do than fight a lawsuit."

O'Halloran also criticized Clifford on several fronts, including hiking the cost of 10-ride tickets. The chairman said the Metra board would now look into reversing that fare hike.

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