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Orland Park top cop: I never agreed to help ex-Metra boss O’Halloran

Chicago MetrBoard Chairman Brad O’Halloran addresses questions about former MetrCEO Alex Clifford controversial severance package UniLeague Club July 9 2013.

Chicago Metra Board Chairman Brad O’Halloran addresses questions about former Metra CEO Alex Clifford controversial severance package at the Union League Club on July 9, 2013. O'Halloran resigned last week. | Michael Jarecki~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 6, 2013 6:09AM

Add this to newly resigned Metra board Chairman Brad O’Halloran’s tarnished legacy at the commuter rail agency:

Last month, O’Halloran announced in a Metra news release that he’d enlisted Tim McCarthy — the Orland Park police chief best known for being shot while protecting President Ronald Reagan as a member of the Secret Service in 1981 — to help overhaul the rail agency’s troubled police department.

But McCarthy says that when O’Halloran approached him “several weeks ago” about helping Metra, he told him no and referred him to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

“It could have been a conflict,” McCarthy says, noting that O’Halloran was also a member of the Orland Park Village Board. “It would have that appearance, and I saw that right away. . . . I said, ‘It has to go through the Illinois chiefs of police. I’m not going to do it.’ ”

O’Halloran, who resigned last week from both the Metra board and the Orland Park Village Board, could not be reached for comment. A Metra spokeswoman declined to comment.

John H. Kennedy, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, confirmed McCarthy called him about having the association help Metra. The association has communicated with Metra but hasn’t been hired by the agency, Kennedy said.

The July 10 Metra news release stated “Orland Park Police Chief and former Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy has agreed to lead a blue-ribbon panel to review reforms and recommendations to enhance the Metra Police Department and to help Metra find a new police chief.”

It then quoted O’Halloran saying, “Chief McCarthy can provide invaluable expertise to help the police department, which has been strapped for resources and hampered by leadership issues.”

In late 2012, Metra’s board hired Hillard Heintze LLC — a consulting firm cofounded by Terry Hillard, the former Chicago police superintendent — for $200,000 to assess the Metra Police Department’s “operations and capabilities,” including its “staffing and training processes.”

That review, which continues, is expected to include Metra’s bulging expenses for police overtime. Last year, six Metra officers averaged more than 30 hours a week in overtime pay, and 11 others worked between 20 and 30 OT hours a week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in May. The agency’s total bill for police overtime: $2.8 million a year.

A top Metra police administrator was reassigned in the wake of that report, and the agency announced its police chief would retire at the end of the year.

In quitting his Metra post, O’Halloran blamed a “media and political frenzy” over patronage-hiring allegations leveled by former Metra chief executive Alex Clifford and the severance package worth up to $718,000 that Clifford was given.

Last month, O’Halloran repaid Orland Park about $22,000 he’d gotten from the southwest suburb for serving as a trustee. O’Halloran returned the money because Illinois law bars Metra board members from being paid for serving in elected office.

Besides O’Halloran, three other Metra board members have resigned — the latest being Larry Huggins, who left Friday, the day after O’Halloran.

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