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Metra CEO to undergo ‘360-degree’ evaluation

Alex Clifford

Alex Clifford

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:19AM

Metra board members Friday zeroed in on a “360-degree” process for evaluating CEO Alex Clifford that will include a self-evaluation and confidential online evaluations by employees who report to him.

During Friday’s monthly Metra board meeting, board members agreed to spend up to $4,000 to hire a consultant to create a confidential online evaluation tool that would be filled out by unspecified staff who report to Clifford.

In addition, Metra attorney Larry Greene revealed that the evaluation of Clifford is also expected to include a written self-evaluation; interviews with third-party stakeholders, such as Metra union officials and lawmakers; reviews by individual board members; and board discussions in closed session.

The evaluation is intended to provide a “360-degree” view of Clifford’s performance based on his work circle.

Clifford’s three-year, $252,500-a-year contract expires in February. He came to Metra from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority promising reform in the wake of the 2010 suicide of former longtime Metra executive director Phil Pagano.

Pagano threw himself in front of a Metra train amid an allegations he had pocketed $475,000 in unapproved vacation pay. At least twice, Pagano had forged the signature of then-Metra chair Carole Doris to get the vacation money, a Metra investigation indicated at the time.

New Metra chair Brad O’Halloran said that the board is starting from scratch in setting up an evaluation process for its CEO.

“I think it makes sense, given any organization of this size and complexity, that the executive director/CEO would have a formal evaluation process. Historically, for whatever reason, that wasn’t done,’’ O’Halloran told reporters after Friday’s board meeting.

However, no specifics were given as to what areas Clifford would be evaluated on, or what performance benchmarks, if any, he would have to meet.

Also Friday, several board members voiced concern about the 14.9 percent drop in February sales of Metra’s once-popular 10-ride ticket after the agency dropped the discount on the ticket Feb. 1.

Board member Larry Huggins wondered if the agency had “made a mistake’’ by dropping the 10-ride discount. Chairman O’Halloran said “if we have to adjust to marketing conditions, that’s what will have to do.’’

Metra officials said it appears some riders are switching to one-month and one-day tickets but even so, the overall the February fare revenue drop was a little bigger than anticipated.

However, CEO Clifford said ridership has been down since October--four months before Metra stopped offering 10 rides for the price of nine. He said the revenue drop may be more tied to job loss and job retirements.

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