Ex-Metra CEO to testify about Madigan patronage claim
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND ART GOLAB Staff Reporters July 15, 2013 7:30PM
Updated: August 17, 2013 6:43AM
Ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford will testify to the Regional Transportation Authority about how House Speaker Michael Madigan asked him to raise the pay of a Madigan campaign worker and to hire another friend of the powerful Southwest Side Democrat.
Clifford’s attorney, Michael Shakman, said his client will testify on Wednesday, but will only discuss matters raised in a memo Clifford wrote to the board that was released Friday.
Shakman allowed his client to talk only after a Metra attorney gave permission to discuss the memo. “Mr. Clifford may respectfully decline to answer questions going beyond that scope unless Metra provides additional consent,” Shakman wrote in a letter to the RTA Monday.
In addition to the pressure from Madigan, Clifford wrote in his memo that another legislator, Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), asked him to fill an executive spot with someone recommended by the Latino caucus, and that two board members, including chair Brad O’Halloran, urged him to go along with the political requests.
Clifford had previously refused to answer questions, citing a non-disclosure clause in his controversial $718,000 severance deal.
Meanwhile, the man to whom Clifford refused to give a raise got Madigan’s help in landing a higher-paying state job last May, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration confirmed Monday.
After Clifford rebuffed Patrick Ward’s pay raise, Madigan (D-Chicago) helped Ward land a $69,996-a-year job as assistant deputy director of labor relations within the state Department of Central Management Services, an agency spokesman confirmed Monday.
“He was recommended by the speaker,” CMS spokeswoman Anjali Julka told the Chicago SunTimes.
Ward worked for the city of Chicago’s personnel department for more than 25 years and had senior labor relation experience and a master’s degree with an emphasis in labor relations, Julka said.
“Mr. Ward was interviewed by the deputy director of CMS, and his former supervisor spoke highly of his qualifications,” she said.
The job Ward accepted had belonged to a “retiring labor relations professional” within CMS’ labor relations bureau, who was paid $88,000 annually, Julka said.
State campaign records show Ward circulated nominating petitions for Madigan in October 2011, a prerequisite for the speaker to appear on the primary ballot in March 2012 — the time when Clifford alleged that Ward and Madigan spoke about a Metra raise.
Ward signed up 100 voters on Madigan’s behalf, records obtained by the Sun-Times from the State Board of Elections show.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he didn’t know anything about Ward’s hiring with the state or the speaker’s motivation in helping the campaign worker get that new job after having tried and failed to get him a raise at Metra.
Unable to shed any light on the new Madigan revelation, Brown encouraged the Chicago SunTimes to call Ward for answers at his state job, which the newspaper did Monday afternoon but never heard back.
As Metra granted Clifford permission Monday to testify at the RTA meeting, Republicans in Springfield were angling to get him before the House Mass Transit Committee, which held a marathon hearing last week about turmoil at Metra.
Earlier Monday, state Rep. Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) had asked state Rep. Deborah Mell (D-Chicago), chair of the House Mass Transit Committee, to seek Clifford’s testimony before her committee.