Lawyer: Metra board member did not err in sharing email
By ROSALIND ROSSI Transportation Reporter September 6, 2013 7:46PM
Board member Jack Schaffer during the Metra Board Meeting on Friday, August 16, 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 8, 2013 6:11AM
An email from a Metra board member to then-Metra CEO Alex Clifford about a month before Clifford threatened a possible whistleblower suit was not privileged and didn’t hurt Metra, both Metra and an outside attorney have concluded.
In fact, Metra acting general counsel Sue-Ann Rosen even reviewed phone and email records between Clifford and board member Jack Schaffer and could find no indication Schaffer ever communicated anything that would have helped any Clifford legal claim, memos obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times indicated.
However, Schaffer Friday still couldn’t help but wonder who sent several reporters copies of an April 5th email in which Clifford said Schaffer had given him a “privileged” March 12th email that Clifford was deleting, at his attorney’s suggestion. One Cook County commissioner used the email to demand that two state agencies investigate Schaffer.
“I think I got mugged,’’ said Schaffer, the sole “hell no” vote against Clifford’s severance agreement that could pay him up to $871,000. The deal has since triggered a firestorm of criticism and official inquiries.
Said Schaffer: “I’d love to know who threw the dagger from the dark corner.’’
Following media reports about the allegedly “privileged” email, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman asked Gov. Pat Quinn in writing to instruct his new transit task force, as well as the state executive inspector general, to review all phone calls and emails between Clifford and Schaffer to see if Schaffer had breached his “fiduciary duty” during them or compromised the controversial settlement.
Metra even sought the advice of outside attorney Michael Zimmerman of Tressler LLP on the matter. Like Rosen, Zimmerman concluded that Clifford was not barred from seeing any of the emailed information, which included one email marked “attorney-client privileged” that had been cc’d directly to Clifford.
Metra spokesman Michael Gillis confirmed Friday that Metra lawyers went further, examining multiple emails and phone calls, and they “have seen nothing that was harmful to Metra.”
Although Schaffer thought he remembered emailing Clifford a list of beefs about him by then-Board chair Brad O’Halloran and others, Metra correspondence indicates the email was actually about a different topic and contained attachments that included public documents or ones that had already been shared with Clifford.