Ex-Metra CEO: Speaker Michael Madigan's requests led to downfall

July 11, 2013 10:00:00 PM PDT
Questions surrounding the hefty departure payout given to Metra's ousted executive director intensified Friday night with the release of an eight-page memo.

In it, former Metra head Alex Clifford makes serious allegations involving House Speaker Michael Madigan and some Metra board members.

Legislative board chair Deborah Mell calls this a big mess. She says legislative action might be necessary to restore public trust in the Metra board. The ousted former Metra CEO Alex Clifford declined to appear at Thursday's legislative hearing. But the memo he wrote to Metra board members speaks volumes.

The legislative hearing apparently yielded few answers.

Lawmakers are questioning the $718,000 severance package for ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford. And on Friday the head of the committee released the formerly-confidential memo Clifford wrote detailing some of his allegations of influence peddling against Metra board members and several lawmakers, including word from a board member who allegedly "said that House Speaker Michael Madigan would like Patrick Ward, a Metra employee, to receive a pay increase . . .that another individual receive a job with Metra. I did not implement Mr. Madigan's requests."

Clifford says he was later told by a board member he "needed to arrange a meeting with Speaker Madigan to assess what damage I have done to Metra and its future funding by my refusal to accede to Speaker Madigan's requests."

The memo also makes allegations against members of the House Latino Caucus and others for attempting to use political influence. Representative Jack Franks is on the committee. "If the board knew about these things and didn't do anything, that's a problem," said Rep. Franks.

In the memo, Clifford continues: "It seems clear that a principal reason that [board members] Mr. O'Halloran and Mr. Huggins have concluded that I must go is that I have not acceded to requests for unlawful politically-motivated employment actions."

"Enough is enough. If I were the Governor, I would replace the entire Metra board and start over," said Rep. Franks.

The two board members named in the memo, Brad O'Halloran and Larry Huggins, through a statement both deny the allegations of wrongdoing in the Clifford memo.

Speaker Michael Madigan declined to appear before the legislative committee but gave them a written statement denying he attempted to use any improper influence.

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