Alex Clifford, the former CEO of Metra who resigned last month, has alleged Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan of attempting to influence decisions of the transit agency.
In an eight-page memo acquired by the Chicago Tribune, Clifford accuses Madigan of attempting to give a raise to labor relations specialist Patrick Ward while Metra had frozen all salary increases. The Tribune says records show that Ward has worked for Madigan campaigns for over 15 years and that he has donated over $17,000 to campaign funds of Madigan or his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Clifford’s memo stated, “[Ward] said that he had discussed his Metra employment with Mr. Madigan at a Madigan political event, where he told Mr. Madigan that he felt underpaid. I told Mr. Ward that his conduct in this regard was inappropriate.”
Clifford’s memo later said that he jeopardized his job by rejecting to give Ward a raise.
Within the memo, Clifford also accuses Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran and former chairman and current Metra board member Larry Huggins of conspiring to remove him from power. Clifford also stated that O’Halloran and Huggins had criticized him for not compromising for the demands of lawmakers and attempted to use his non-partisan actions as reasons to not renew his contract.
O’Halloran and Huggins both released statements denying Clifford’s accusations.
“As I testified yesterday, I deny Mr. Clifford’s allegations, but, out of an abundance of caution, immediately forwarded all of his claims to the Inspector General,” O’Halloran said. “I have never intervened with Metra’s staff regarding any jobs or contracts. The Board attempted a fair and unbiased review process for Mr. Clifford that was upended by his threatened legal strategy, which resulted in the settlement.”
Said Huggins, “I categorically deny Clifford’s allegations, and I am especially concerned with his claims regarding my efforts to resolve the community concerns with minority business and employment participation in the Englewood Flyover project.”
The memo, which was received by Metra on April 3 but not released until Friday, may also provide context about Clifford’s severance package. At least one Metra board member has said that Clifford’s $718,000 severance was “hush money” to keep his allegations about Madigan private.
The Chicago Tribune could not reach Ward, who is no longer with Metra, for comment. Madigan has yet to comment on the issue.