State lawmakers are trying to get to the bottom of the potentially big payout to the fired director of Metra, the Chicago-area commuter rail agency.
The departed Alex Clifford could get $718,000, which Metra lawyer Joseph M. Gagliardo said is not a golden parachute, but rather settlement of potential litigation. Gagliardo testified at a hearing of the Illinois House Mass Transit Committee.
At issue is Clifford’s assertion that he was given the ax for balking at political requests. Gagliardo articulated three instances that Clifford complained were political in nature:
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A request from the Legislative Hispanic Caucus to hire someone of their recommendation for a deputy executive director position
A request from the office of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) to give a raise to a Metra employee who is a personal friend of the speaker
Intervention by three Illinois congressmen regarding a railroad construction project that the congressmen insisted have greater participation by minority contractors and hiring of community residents.
Gagliardo said the claims that these requests were political in nature were defensible, but that litigation would have cost more than the settlement, with no guarantee of favorable results for the agency. He said the settlement was recommended by a mediator.
The payout to Clifford will be at least $194,000. The number could rise, depending on how long it takes him to find a new job, to as much as $718,000. State Rep. Jack D. Franks (D-Marengo) said the “taxpayers of Illinois are being taken advantage of.”