CHICAGO (AP) – The former CEO of the Metra commuter rail service who is at the center of a controversy over political clout and hiring will appear this week before a Regional Transportation Authority board meeting, the attorney for Alex Clifford said Monday.
A memo by Clifford took center stage during hearings last week over his resignation and $718,000 in severance pay. Metra had been under mounting pressure to let Clifford out of the buyout’s confidentiality clause so that he could talk about the memo. It details allegations involving House Speaker Michael Madigan and other politicians.
In a letter to the RTA, attorney Michael Shakman said Metra attorney Joseph Gagliardo released Clifford from the confidentiality clause.
“Mr. Clifford will appear with counsel at the July 17 RTA board meeting and will answer board members’ questions with the scope of the consent Metra has provided,” Shakman said in the letter addressed to RTA Chairman John S. Gates Jr.
Shakman went on to request that all questions from RTA board members be provided to Clifford in advance so that he can be prepared to give full responses. The RTA oversees the operations of Chicago’s transit agencies, including Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace.
What began last week as an inquiry into whether Clifford’s June 21 severance deal was a waste of taxpayer money has turned into an inquiry into whether Metra, which is recovering from past scandal, is engaged in improper dealings with politicians seeking favors.
The House Mass Transit Committee heard from several Metra board members and their outside legal counsel Thursday. But committee members were angered that Metra officials did not reveal the full scope of Clifford’s allegations, which only became clear when the memo Clifford wrote to the Metra board before his dismissal was released late Friday at the committee’s request. Several passages were blacked out.
In the eight-page memo, Clifford recounts several alleged episodes of patronage politics and asks board members to back him against what he says are efforts to force him out for not playing along.
“It would be very unfortunate if someone who was hired to run Metra in accordance with the law after a major scandal were to be terminated because he did not play ball with politicians seeking political hiring, or go along with manipulating Metra contracts contrary to legal requirements,” Clifford wrote.
Clifford’s predecessor, Phil Pagano, was accused of defrauding the agency out of about $475,000. He killed himself in 2010 by stepping in front of a Metra train.