Metra scandal leads to new calls for board chairman Brad O'Halloran to resign

July 31, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Scandal continues to swirl around the suburban rail service. First, it was a sizeable severance package for the former CEO. Now, the chairman of the board that oversees Metra may have been inappropriately collecting paychecks from two government agencies.

Metra's silence on this scandal continues Wednesday.

Two of the eleven board members have now resigned. But the man at the center of the scandal, board chairman Brad O'Halloran, continues to rebuff of growing chorus of calls for him to step down.

The trains are running but no one from Metra is talking, with the exception of one board member.

"For two years, the people of Illinois had a transit district that was run totally honest. And I'm sad to say that offended some people here in Cook County," said Jack Schaffer, Metra board member, McHenry County.

First, it was the $718,000 severance package for the ousted CEO, that included a gag order on him. Then, it was his claims board chairman Brad O'Halloran and others pressured him to hire and give raises to people with political connections. Now, the Tribune reports O'Halloran continued to collect $22,000 in compensation from Orland Park, where he's a trustee. Metra board members are banned from double dipping.

"The board is on the verge of being totally non-functional and the first step on the road to recovery is Brad O'Halloran has to go," said Schaffer.

"I think the chairman should step down. Two members have stepped down. There needs to be a process to purify this situation, and there isn't one right now," said IL Sen. Bill Brady, candidate for governor.

Good government groups say that especially troubling are reports O'Halloran told Metra about the mistake in December, but didn't give the money back until the agency fell under heavy scrutiny this month.

"If you can't keep track of what's supposed to be in your bank account, how is it that the public can rely on you to make sure an agency is running correctly?" said Emily Miller, Better Government Association.

As Metra's messes have multiplied, the rail agency's performance has slipped.

In January: 96.8% of trains ran on-time. By June: The number slipped to just over 92%, the worst on-time performance in two years.

"Point A to Point B, on time. That's the most important thing to me. I don't like to see money wasted if its being wasted," said Cathy Krsek, Metra commuter.

"I give 'em an A plus. I got to give it to them. The train ticket is a little high but the commute is beautiful," said Sharon Grant, Metra commuter.

Metra board chairman Brad O'Halloran has not responded to calls or e-mails for comment from ABC7. His part-time job at Metra comes with a $25,000 a year salary plus a pension. Because all of the Metra board members are political appointees, a Metra spokesperson said she cannot answer questions on their behalf.

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