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Metra CEO decision possible Friday

Thursday, January 30, 2014
Daily Herald
Marni Pyke

After months of twists and turns, Metra could have a new executive director by the end of the week and a permanent board chairman in February.

The board of directors is expected to interview four or five candidates for the CEO job Friday, including acting chief Don Orseno.

The agency's been on a roller-coaster ride since spring 2010 when former CEO Phil Pagano committed suicide amid an investigation into financial misdeeds. His replacement Alex Clifford started in February 2011 and exited in June 2013.

Clifford's departure sparked another uproar after the July release of a memo he wrote alleging pressure from state lawmakers over jobs and conflict of interest by two board members including the former chairman.

In the wake of the scandal, the 11-member board gained six new members, three of whom could be in line for the chairman position.

Metra bylaws have established a rotating chairmanship, alternating between Cook County members and Collar County members. The current term must be held by a Cook County resident.

Possible contenders are Chicago attorney Martin Oberman, retired Wilmette attorney John Plante and Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves, officials said.

Plante, a former CTA executive, said each director will make their case to the board. "It's not a personality contest," he said. "Each of us has something to offer. I don't see any hidden personal agendas."

"My position is — this will be the most nonadversarial pick in the history of Metra," Reaves said, adding he would vote for Oberman or Plante if that was the board's will. "We want this to come out as an 11-0 vote."

Previously, the chairmanship was decided after behind-the-scenes negotiations by the six county chairman, Chicago mayor and Cook County Board members, who appoint Metra directors.

Both the new CEO and chairman will face multiple challenges including complaints over weather-related delays, reports of a mismanaged police department and budget constraints.



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