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Metra Board to discuss naming interim CEO on Tuesday

Board member John Partelow during MetrBoard Meeting Friday August 16 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Board member John Partelow during the Metra Board Meeting on Friday, August 16, 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 29, 2013 6:25AM

During a special meeting Tuesday, Metra Board members will discuss naming an interim executive director following the tumult that greeted their $871,000 farewell handshake with ex-CEO Alex Clifford.

The RTA — Metra’s financial overseer — has “strongly urged” that Metra be run by one person, instead of the “split at the top” that board members approved June 21, only minutes after signing off on Clifford’s departure, Acting Metra Chairman Jack Partelow told the Chicago Sun-Times Monday.

Plus, Partelow said, “good management dictates that” one person be in charge.

Back in June, board members named two men to temporarily run Metra — Alex Wiggins, head of administration, and Donald Orseno, head of operations. To resolve disputes between the two, the board chairman was given the final say.

Partelow would not say whom he expected to win the temporary top spot, but Metra Board member Jack Schaffer Monday predicted the nod would go to Orseno, rather than Wiggins.

Clifford has said he believed his ouster was part of a conspiracy by former Chairman Brad O’Halloran and another former board member to replace him with Wiggins.

Since then, the number of Metra Board members has dwindled from 11 to 6. Partelow said only four votes are needed to name an interim executive director.

“We’ll get to vote and you’ll see who gets it,’’ Partelow said.

During the closed-door session of Tuesday’s meeting, Metra board members are expected to discuss whether a $10 million insurance policy can be tapped to cover any of Clifford’s $871,000 separation agreement or the $340,000 in so-called “damage control’’ surrounding it.

In addition, Schaffer — the lone “no” vote against Clifford’s separation agreement — has said he’d like to discuss the possibility of reopening Clifford’s deal to allow him to come back as CEO. However, Schaffer noted, the board currently doesn’t have the eight votes needed to approve a permanent CEO.


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