Metra board member resigns, still supports Ex-CEO’s controversial severance package
By Steve Lord Sun-Times Media July 22, 2013 11:07PM
Saying he no longer has the time or desire to serve, Mike McCoy has resigned from the embattled Metra board of directors.
Updated: August 24, 2013 6:33AM
Mike McCoy has resigned as Kane County’s representatice on the Metra rail board, but stands by his decision to support the controversial $700,000 severance package given to ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford.
McCoy voted for the controversial $718,000 separation agreement between Metra and Clifford because he was concerned about how much it cost the agency if Clifford’s exit resulted in a lawsuit.
“My vote was primarily based on financial analysis,” McCoy wrote in a letter resigning his position on the Metra Board. “I felt the financial risk of litigating and possibly losing the Clifford threatened lawsuit far outweighed the cost of settlement. I believe this even more strongly today.”
McCoy sent the letter Friday to Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen. As board chairman, Lauzen is charged with appointing Kane’s Metra representative.
In the letter, McCoy told Lauzen he was resigning because, “I no longer have the time or desire to continue serving.”
The Metra Board has taken considerable criticism for approving the settlement agreement with Clifford, which was about three times the amount of his salary. Officials throughout the state have called the agreement “hush money,” given to Clifford to make him go away in the wake of claims of patronage demands made on him from other Metra officials and powerful politicians.
Clifford first outlined his patronage claims in an April 3 memo saying that Metra Board Chairman Brad O’Halloran and another board member, Larry Huggins, allowed pay-to-play politics and overstepped their authority.
He even said that the possibility his contract might not be renewed by the board was tied to his resisting patronage demands.
Last week, he testified before the RTA board, saying just that: he was removed for rejecting patronage demands from politicians, including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
O’Halloran has denied Clifford’s claims. And Huggins said Clifford was assailing him for seeking more African-American subcontractors on the Englewood Flyover bridge project — which Huggins said was the right thing to do.
McCoy has had his own differences with Clifford. He disagreed with Clifford’s recommendation to increase the price of the 10-ride pass, which the rest of the board passed. That move backfired when sales of the 10-ride pass went down significantly.
Despite that, McCoy originally supported renewing Clifford’s contract and thought the contract would be renewed. That changed after the April 3 memo.“After Clifford threatened to sue the Metra Board over our adopted review procedure, I no longer supported giving him a contract extension,” McCoy wrote. “I did not believe this type of person should be in charge of the agency.”
McCoy also said in his letter that he thinks the rest of the Metra staff are “excellent and dedicated employees.” He said he thinks they can be “structured and coached into a superior management team.”
As to what will happen relative to a new Kane County representative on the Metra Board, Lauzen said Monday that he’s in no hurry to name a new one. He said he would wait until “I basically know what we’re looking for.”
“I don’t see where the Metra board is going next,” he said.