The governor is talking about creating a commission to gather the facts and suggest a re-structuring for Metra. It’s just like what Gov. Pat Quinn did when political muscle was being used to influence admissions at the University of Illinois.
“We had the situation with the University of Illinois, and a number of the trustees back then resigned, and I did put together a task force to look at the whole issue. We appointed new trustees, but I had direct appointment power then, and they’ve been able to straighten things out,” he said.
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The way Metra, the Chicago-area commuter rail agency, is structured now, the governor does not appoint the board members, and he has to go through rigmarole if he wants to remove any of them. Four of the 11 have resigned on their own.
The Metra board forced out the executive director, Alex D. Clifford, when they learned Clifford had ignored political patronage requests from the Illinois House speaker and other politicians.
Quinn says he’d like a task force to include experts in public transportation operations and finance, and ethics experts, to determine how to insulate Chicago-area commuter rail from influence by politicians.
Quinn says the agency must be reformed following three scandals – this one and two others:
The 2006 conviction of Metra board member Donald Udstuen for federal tax fraud for taking tens of thousands of dollars from contractors over 15 years.
Philip A. Pagano, the executive director of Metra, embezzled from the agency, a fact which came to light when he committed suicide by stepping in front of a Metra train in 2010.