Former federal prosecutor to look into Metra allegations

Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran has hired former assistant U.S. Patrick Collins to perform an independent investigation and make recommendations concerning allegations raised by former Executive Director Alex Clifford.

In a memo and in testimony before the RTA board, Clifford claims he was forced out of his position because he resisted political pressure from House Speaker Mike Madigan and others to hand out patronage jobs or give raises to politically-connected Metra employees.

Clifford got a $718,000 buyout last month after he threatened to sue over his firing.

In addition to investigating the Clifford allegations, Collins will be asked to make recommendations to enhance the agency’s hiring and contract policies. He will report to the full Metra board in public session within 90 days.

“Patrick Collins has an unquestioned reputation for integrity, honesty and fighting corruption,” said Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran in a news release. “I look forward to an unflinching report which makes recommendations that help the agency restore confidence with riders, taxpayers and the communities we serve.”

In a statement, Madigan expressed his support for the investigation.

“I have reviewed the facts surrounding the issue and I am confident that my actions were not inappropriate or violative of any applicable law or ethical rule,” he said.

O’Halloran has called for a special meeting Monday of Metra’s Board of Directors to approve hiring Collins.

Collins, who has been a partner at Perkins Coie since 2007, is an experienced trial attorney and investigator who has represented major public and private enterprises to investigate allegations of corruption and counsel them on preventive measures to restore and enhance integrity. At the United States Attorney’s Office, Collins led a prosecution related to Metra procurement fraud.

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