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GOP calls for Metra chairman’s ouster grow

Chicago MetrBoard Chairman Brad O'Halloran

Chicago Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran

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Updated: August 25, 2013 6:40AM

More Republicans Tuesday joined an Illinois House resolution calling for the resignation of Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran, who said he has no intention of stepping down amid growing investigations of a Metra patronage scandal.

The resolution calls O’Halloran an “instrumental” figure in the passage of a $718,000, 26-month buyout of Metra CEO Alex Clifford that has become the subject of two inspectors general investigations.

House Resolution 521 charges that the deal given former Clifford in exchange for his June 21 resignation was “far in excess of what would be considered normal” and should not have been orchestrated “in secrecy.’’

It calls on O’Halloran to resign as chair of the Metra Board for his “poor and inappropriate handling” of public funds that bankrolled Clifford’s termination agreement. The resolution asks remaining Metra Board members to elect a new chair who will operate in a “transparent and open manner.’’

State Rep. David Harris (R-Mount Prospect) filed the resolution Friday, with Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) as chief co-sponsor. Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) jumped on board Monday and Reps. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) and Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. (R-Mundelein) joined as cosponsors Tuesday.

The resolution needs 60 of 118 House vote to pass, but Harris and McSweeney noted that the Legislature is currently on summer break. They expected the resolution, which does not have the full force of a law, to gain steam as an October legislative session nears.

For his part, O’Halloran told the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday that the person who appointed him to the Metra Board — Republican Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman — “absolutely” supports him.

“I talked to her today. I know she supports me,’’ O’Halloran said.

O’Halloran said he isn’t considering stepping down.

“Why would I do so? I need to see this through, and I intend to,’’ O’Halloran told the Sun-Times.

His key focus at the moment, O’Halloran said, it to find someone “of the stature’’ of hard-charging former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate allegations in Clifford’s April 3 memo, as well as recommend ways to address problems the memo and Clifford’s testimony raised.

Collins bowed out Monday at the 11th hour, citing a “potential conflict issues.’’

However, McSweeney called the hiring of Collins or a replacement for Collins “a complete waste of money” and just one more reason why O’Halloran needed to resign.

“It’s a mistake. That’s why O’Halloran needs to resign,’’ McSweeney said. He said he had far more faith in investigations and recommendations by the Illinois Legislature’s inspector general as well as the state executive inspector general.

The attempt to hire Collins came after Metra spent $52,400 as of June 17 on former Downstate U.S. Attorney Rodger Heaton and two legal colleagues at a total $885 an hour to investigate a key April 3 memo in which Clifford, among other things, accused House Speaker Mike Madigan of pressuring him to give a raise and a promotion to Madigan cronies.

However, O’Halloran said Heaton only was charged with investigating Clifford’s April 3 memo. Metra also needs recommendations on how to move forward as oversight agencies want to know “what are we going to do to proactively stop this in the future,’’ O’Halloran said.

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