Story Summary

Resignations amid Metra patronage allegations

Former Metra chief Alex 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.

Since Clifford’s buyout, Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran and three board members have resigned.

Metra’s vice chairman Jack Partelow of Will County will assume O’Halloran’s duties.

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Metra board member Stanley Rakestraw has submitted his letter of resignation to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, making him the fifth Metra board member to

He was appointed by Preckwinkle to represent the county’s suburbs on the board.

On Wednesday, Preckwinkle called upon Rakestraw to resign after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that he lives in a luxury condo in Chicago. Therefore, he’s ineligible for the Metra post.

Preckwinkle said Rakestraw used to live in Flossmoor.

He moved to Chicago two years ago when his house burned down.

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.

Photo caption: Stan Rakestraw, pictured at Metra headquarters in the Chicago Loop last year. (Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune / November 2, 2012)

Yet another Metra board member may be forced to resign.

Stan Rakestraw was appointed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to represent the county’s suburbs.

But a Chicago Tribune investigation reveals, Rakestraw lives in a luxury condo in Chicago so he’s ineligible for the Metra post.

Preckwinkle said Rakestraw used to live in Flossmoor.

He moved to Chicago two years ago when his house burned down.

Wednesday, Preckwinkle called upon him to resign.

The controversial departure of Metra’s CEO has now cost the Metra board chairman his job.

Chairman Brad O’Halloran is stepping down after giving former CEO Alex Clifford almost three years pay as severance.

Critics called it hush money, but Clifford didn’t keep quiet; instead he went public with his claim that state house speaker Mike Madigan pressured him to give jobs, promotions or pay raises to his political friends.

O’Halloran said the Clifford controversy and its attendant media hype made it impossible to do his job.

Metra’s vice chairman Jack Partelow of Will County will assume O’Halloran’s duties.

Alex Clifford offered no comment on O’Halloran’s resignation.

READ: Brad OHalloran Resignation Letter

A second Metra board member has resigned, over the controversial firing of CEO Alex Clifford.

Elmhurst businessman Paul Darley represented DuPage County on the Metra board for the past two years.

His resignation follows that of Kane County’s Mike McCoy earlier this month.

Pressure is building for Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran to step down, for giving Clifford a severance package equal to three years pay.

Local News
07/26/13

Metra patronage scandal deepens

We’re learning more about the employee at the center of the patronage scandal involving Metra and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

The Sun-Times reports, while Madigan’s friend Patrick Ward complained about being paid only $57,000 a year at Metra, he was already collecting a $52,000 pension from the City of Chicago and another $8,000 a year from Cook County.

Madigan allegedly pressured Metra CEO Alex Clifford to give Ward a raise; Clifford says, when he refused, he was forced out.

In May, Patrick Ward went on to accept a state job, where he now collects another $70,000 a year.

Metra’s board of directors abruptly cancelled a meeting Monday, where members planned to vote on whether to hire a high-profile attorney to defend against allegations of patronage hiring.

Those allegations came in a memo sent by former CEO Alex Clifford, who resigned last month.

Metra 2Clifford claims he was forced out because he wouldn’t bend to political pressure from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who wanted a pay raise for one of his political supporters.

Directors would have voted today on whether to hire former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins, he prosecutor who sent former governor George Ryan to prison.

In a statement, the board says Collins decided not to work for Metra because of a conflict of interest.

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.

Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford got his first opportunity to clear the air over the $700k plus payout he received in order to leave the agency today when he testified at Regional Transportation Authority meeting.

The ousted CEO was on the hot seat today but not sweating it out after he alleged he was let go when he didn’t succumb to political pressure by Illinois house speaker Mike Madigan among other things. Madigan, Clifford maintains,  wanted certain hires at the agency, even raises for some employees. Clifford said no and then was asked to leave, he says.

Now the RTA wants the truth after a scathing April memo written by the CEO went public with allegations about the possible patronage violations.

“I did not feel the law was broken,” Clifford said.

The chairman of Metra Brad O’Halloran also addressed the RTA board of directors.

The hearing went on for six solid hours and covered everything from patronage problems to no bid contracts.

The legislative inspector general Tom Homer vows to investigate.  He won’t say who or exactly what he is looking into. Nor will he say how long it will take to complete.

“We’re just in the preliminary stage of determining if any rules have been violated,” he said.

Ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford’s testimony today before the RTA Board was riveting, with numerous mentions of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Clifford said leaving Metra with a controversial severance deal was never what he wanted.

Clifford was calm and collected in his first public comments since last week’s release of his bombshell memo from April 3.

“I stand behind my April 3 memo,” Clifford said.  “I have nothing to hide.”

The former Metra CEO made it clear that he did not leave by choice.

Clifford reiterated to the RTA Board many points made in his 8-page memo — that he was forced out for resisting the demands of Speaker Madigan.  The powerful Democrat allegedly demanded a raise for a particular employee and the hiring of another.  Clifford said he did neither.

Metra’s attorney and board chairman listened intently and took notes during Clifford’s testimony, which touched upon his $718,000 severance package and confidentiality provision.

The confidentiality provision limited what Clifford could say during today’s testimony.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the employee for whom Speaker Madigan requested a raise left Metra last year and was recently hired for a state job after a recommendation from Madigan.

The recently ousted CEO of Metra will appear before the Metra board to face questions about his departure.

Alex Clifford got a $700,000 buyout when he left.

He claimed he was fired because he refused to cave in to pressure to hire patronage workers.

Clifford refused to attend a meeting of state lawmakers last week to explain his firing.

But he’ll appear before Metra trustees Wednesday.

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