Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka (pictured) has a straightforward opinion on the patronage allegations at Metra. “It’s no way to run a railroad,”said Topinka. “It’s very disheartening.” Topinka has a rare perspective on the scandal, having served on the Regional Transportation Authority board from 2006 to 2011. The board oversees the finances of the transit agencies in the Chicago area, including Metra, which runs the commuter rail system.
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She acknowledges that job seekers tried to persuade her to use her influence to land a position. “I said ‘Well, look, I’ll submit your resume,’” Topinka recalled. “He said ‘Well I can do that myself.’ And I said, ‘Well, fine, do it yourself.’” Topinka added that no politician should be lobbying for public-sector jobs for friends and supporters. The Comptroller left her position on the RTA board before Alex Clifford was hired as executive director of Metra. Clifford has claimed he was forced out after resisting pressure to hand out patronage jobs and raises to politically-connected Metra workers.