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County commissioners affirm Metra Board appointment

Thursday, October 03, 2013
Daily Whale
by Matthew Blake

Cook County commissioners representing the northern suburbs on Wednesday affirmed the appointment of John Plante, a Wilmette attorney and former Chicago Transit Authority manager, to serve on the embattled Metra Board of Directors.

Effective immediately, Plante replaces William Widmer, one of five Metra Board members that have resigned from the 11-member body after approving a severance package in June for former Metra Chief Executive Officer Alex Clifford that could end up being worth as much as $871,000.

Also at Wednesday’s Cook County Board meeting, Board President Toni Preckwinkle nominated Rumayne Brown to the Metra Board. Brown is a former Chicago Transit Authority manager who served as vice president of rail operations at CTA before retiring in 2010.

The full Cook County Board must approve Preckwinkle’s appointment of Brown before she can take a seat on the board. Preckwinkle indicated that she will call a special board meeting to consider Brown’s appointment prior to the October 18 Metra Board meeting.

Plante’s appointment was approved through a weighted vote of commissioners whose districts lie within Metra’s northern suburban boundary. Comm. Larry Suffredin (13th), who had the largest share of the weighted vote at 38 percent, nominated Plante after 13 applicants were considered at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Suffredin cited Plante’s more than 20 years working at CTA and his chairmanship of a joint services board of emergency preparedness at Pace, CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority. Suffredin said that while at CTA Plante “spent a lot of his time developing manuals and safety oversight of the Chicago transit rail.”

“I believe that he will … hit the ground running with the Metra Board and help them get out of the malaise that they find themselves in,” Suffredin added.

Despite the crowded field of applicants, Plante’s appointment was met with no opposition as other commissioners also praised his experience. Plante was not present at the board meeting.

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