Audit: Metra officials repeatedly misled public over CEO’s ouster
Regional Transportation Authority released a report today blasting Metra officials regarding the severance package for former CEO Alex Clifford
This draft report from the RTA is scathing. It doesn’t just slam the $718,000 dollar severance package paid to Metra’s former CEO it recommends that, if it’s still possible, the payment should be canceled.
The auditor’s report finds that officials at the transit agency repeatedly failed to come clean about the reason for the unusually large settlement claiming they faced the threat of litigation and millions in legal fees if there was a lawsuit.
What wasn’t revealed is that Metra carries insurance for exactly that kind of litigation which would also cover any settlement.
The deductible for that policy is about one-fifth of the cost of the severance package, 150,000 dollars.
Metra lawyers and board members have defended the settlement saying outgoing CEO Alex Clifford threatened to file a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging patronage in the awarding of contracts and that paying him off was the best way out.
In fact, the audit finds, it was the worst way out.
In a statement, RTA chairman John Gates says “The RTA’s audit staff has determined that the Metra Board’s deliberative process was flawed and their decision to give Mr. Clifford a generous severance package was not financially prudent. All costs related to the Clifford contract dispute should have been claimed under Metra’s existing insurance policy instead of being paid from tax payer funds.”
The auditor’s report says that insurance policy is capped at 10 million dollars and specifically covers whisteblower lawsuits.
Critics have been claiming for weeks that Metra paid Clifford one of the largest settlements in Illinois history to shut him up. The RTA report does nothing to dispute that.
Auditors looked at thousands of pages of documents and listened to hours of testimony to come up with this. The final report is still being compiled.