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Metra’s chairman collected pay as village trustee, then tried to return money as controversy unfolded

MetrBoard Chairman Brad O'Halloran  |  Provided photo

Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran | Provided photo

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Updated: September 1, 2013 6:25AM

Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran quietly wrote a check this month to return about $22,000 to the southwest suburb of Orland Park where he is a trustee — because state law bars such compensation, records show.

State law prohibits members of Metra’s board of directors from accepting money through an elected office. But O’Halloran said he’d learned the village paid money into his deferred compensation retirement accounts — not directly to him — from July 2011 through November 2012.

A village spokesman confirmed O’Halloran told it to stop the payments early last December.

But O’Halloran didn’t write his check returning the money until July 12 — one day after a committee of state lawmakers heard explosive allegations about “hush money” and political maneuvering within the suburban transit agency.

Now this latest in an ongoing series of Metra revelations has prompted new calls for O’Halloran’s resignation.

The Metra board chairman issued his own written statement Tuesday explaining he never meant to be compensated for his work as a trustee while he was on the Metra board and promising to cooperate fully to refund the money.

“I am proud of my service as a Trustee of Orland Park,” O’Halloran said, “which is not and has never been about the compensation.”

A Metra spokeswoman also said O’Halloran reported the issue to Metra’s ethics officer, who in turn reported it to the Office of Executive Inspector General.

O’Halloran asked Orland Park’s director of human resources to remove him from its payroll in an undated letter released Tuesday. Orland Park spokesman Joe La Margo said the letter was processed Dec. 3, with an effective date of Dec. 1.

But O’Halloran’s follow-up letter to Orland Park manager Paul Grimes was dated July 12. In that letter, O’Halloran wrote “it was my intent that all compensation to me from Orland Park cease effective July 2011.”

He said he was told the contributions and benefits paid by the village totaled $22,167.36 — and he included a check for that amount.

However, Grimes followed up with his own letter noting the village’s finance staff noticed “a minor discrepancy in the calculation.” He said the correct amount owed by O’Halloran to the village is $21,967.10.

In addition, La Margo said the village is working with tax counsel to figure out whether O’Halloran should direct the managers of his retirement accounts to return the money to the village.

“We might have to get the money back from them,” La Margo said, adding O’Halloran’s check has not been cashed.

News of O’Halloran’s allegedly improper payments from the village also prompted a new call from state Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, for O’Halloran to resign Tuesday.

“Mr. O’Halloran’s actions have further demonstrated that he has no regard for the proper accountability and handling of public funds,” Harris said in a written statement.

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