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Metra will log all communication intended to influence hiring

MetrCEO DOrseno Metrheadquarters Tuesday January 28 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Metra CEO Don Orseno at Metra headquarters on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 13, 2014 6:12AM



Metra board members Friday unanimously approved a “sweeping” new reporting procedure intended to discourage back-door attempts to influence Metra personnel decisions.

The ethics change was prompted by recommendations from Gov. Pat Quinn’s transit task force and the tumult over charges by former Metra CEO Alex Clifford that three lawmakers had tried to interfere in Metra personnel matters.

The new ordinance requires Metra board members and employees to log any “employment related communication” they receive about a “specific individual with respect to employment at Metra.”

But the new ordinance does not require reporting of calls only from people with clout.

“It’s very sweeping,’’ Metra Chair Martin Oberman said. “It’s as broad as it can be. ‘’

Even if a neighbor calls inquiring on behalf of a son who just graduated college, the call must be logged, Oberman said. Callers should be directed to Metra’s online hiring procedures.

The goal is to discourage such calls, Oberman said. “We’re making it as clear as we can there’s no reason to call us, so don’t,’’ he said.

Oberman doubted the logging procedure would discourage legitimate inquiries about “able” candidates who could be helpful to Metra, but said those calls also must be logged.

Under the ordinance, Metra board members and employees must summarize job-related conversations about specific individuals within 48 hours of their occurrence by placing them in a log kept by Metra’s Human Resources Department.

In researching the new policy, Metra called the University of Illinois-Champaign about changes it instituted following revelations of influence-peddling involving admissions there, Oberman said.

Also Friday, Metra board members learned Metra is on its second interim police chief since hiring consultant Hillard Heinze to guide the agency through the process of finding a new chief and to provide interim chiefs until the post is permanently filled. Hillard Heinze employee Carl Dobrich succeeded Harvey Radney, another Heinz employee, as Metra interim chief after Radney retired April 1.

Metra CEO Don Orseno said he has completed the finalist process and expects to announce a new permanent police chief soon. The selection of a new chief follows a Hillard Heintze report that blasted Metra’s police force as “antiquated” and poorly trained, with “remarkably low” arrests.

Also Friday, Metra revealed that its monthly on-time rate has not hit the goal of 95 percent on-time since January’s brutal two-day winter storm—but it’s close.

In March, 94.9 percent of Metra trains were “on-time,’’ meaning they arrived at their destination no more than six minutes late, data showed Friday. The biggest on-time buster was freight train interference, which caused 159 delays in March.

Email: rrossi@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rosalindrossi



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