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Metra’s No. 2 boss apparently put on leave: board member

From left: DOrseno MetrDeputy Executive Director Operations Alex Wiggins MetrDeputy Executive Director AdministratiJoe Gagliardo MetrOutside Counsel former Chairman MetrBrad O'Halloran.

From left: Don Orseno, Metra Deputy Executive Director of Operations, Alex Wiggins, Metra Deputy Executive Director of Administration, Joe Gagliardo, Metra Outside Counsel, and former Chairman of Metra Brad O'Halloran. O'Halloran addressed the Regional Tr

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Updated: December 20, 2013 6:22AM

In yet the latest potential Metra leadership upheaval, the suburban rail agency’s No. 2 chief — Alex Wiggins — apparently has been put on “administrative leave,” according to one Metra source.

The developments with Wiggins, Metra’s deputy executive director for administration, come nearly five months after the man who recruited Wiggins — former CEO Alex Clifford — won a severance deal worth up to $871,000 that kicked open a hornet’s nest of controversy and scrutiny.

Metra Board member Jack Schaffer said Monday it was his “understanding” that Wiggins, who was not at Friday’s Metra Board meeting, was on “administrative leave.’’

“It’s a pending personnel matter,” Schaffer said.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said Monday he could not comment because “personnel matters” were involved.

Wiggins couldn’t be reached for comment. His last annual salary was listed at $178,500.

Immediately after Clifford’s June 21 ouster, Wiggins was a rising star at Metra. He was one of two people appointed to co-run Metra temporarily after Clifford’s departure.

In addition, in a memo before his severance deal, Clifford contended some Metra board members wanted to replace him with Wiggins. Wiggins has said no board members talked to him about the idea.

Just days after Clifford’s June 21 departure, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign reported a $1,000 contribution from Wiggins. Wiggins later told the Better Government Association that the timing of his contribution was “irrelevant” to the search for a new CEO, which Preckwinkle’s appointment to the Metra Board and the host of the Preckwinkle fundraiser would have voted on.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported Monday that talks were underway “about potential terms for Mr. Wiggins’ departure” from Metra.

Wiggins’ departure would be the latest Metra leadership shakeup since May 2010, when former Metra boss Phil Pagano committed suicide by stepping in front of a Metra train. At the time, Pagano was under investigation for misappropriating $475,000 in vacation pay from Metra.


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