Zuccarelli quits CTA Board
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND ROSALIND ROSSI Sun-Times Media August 13, 2013 10:14PM
Updated: September 15, 2013 6:36AM
The Southland Democratic power broker whose appointment by Gov. Pat Quinn to the Chicago Transit Authority Board sparked controversy stepped down from the post on Tuesday.
In a letter to Quinn, Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli alluded to calls for his ouster by Quinn gubernatorial rival William Daley.
“Given the events of recent weeks, I do not want political grandstanding to distract from the critical issues or stand in the way of what people in the south suburbs need,” wrote Zuccarelli, who also is the Thornton Township Democratic committeeman. “Therefore, it is with great regret that I ask you to withdraw my appointment to the CTA Board effective immediately.”
While Zuccarelli is giving up the $25,000-a-year CTA Board seat, he will continue to draw the $186,418 paycheck he receives from Thornton Township.
Last week, with a patronage scandal enveloping the region’s mass transit system, Daley pounded Quinn on the Zuccarelli appointment, calling the longtime political boss a double-dipper because of his township supervisor job.
But in doing so, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley left himself vulnerable to questions about political cronyism and patronage that went on during his brother’s 22-year reign as mayor. Mayor Daley’s former campaign manager Terry Peterson and former patronage chief Victor Reyes were appointed to the CTA Board by the former mayor.
Zuccarelli resigned in time to avoid attending Wednesday’s monthly CTA Board meeting.
Reacting to the resignation, William Daley delivered a blunt, two-sentence reply that appeared designed not to add to the perception that he was engaging in “political grandstanding” with his earlier call for Zuccarelli’s departure.
“Frank Zuccarelli had little choice but to do the honorable thing by resigning,” Daley said. “It’s unfortunate that Gov. Quinn put him in this position in the first place.”
In accepting his resignation, Quinn thanked and praised Zuccarelli but did not allude to the double-dipping controversy over the appointment.
“As someone who grew up in the south suburbs, attended South Suburban College and went on to serve as an elected leader of Thornton Township, Frank is a strong representative of the Southland area,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. “I felt he would have brought an important perspective to the CTA Board, which has all too often left (the Southland) behind when it came to important transportation access issues.” Meanwhile, the Federal Railroad Administration announced Tuesday it was stepping up its oversight of the beleaguered Metra commuter rail system — with increased inspections of train operations and attendance at weekly meetings with the two executives now heading Metra in the wake of its chief executive’s controversial severance package.
U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) asked the FRA to take extra steps to guard Metra’s safety after the departure of CEO Alex Clifford and the upheaval among board members that followed.
Zuccarelli’s resignation was the eighth among board members through the region’s mass transit agencies in the wake of the outcry that greeted the lucrative severance package for Clifford, who resigned June 21 with eight months left on his contract.
At least one Metra Board member has contended that Clifford’s hefty 26-month payout — which could reach $718,000 — amounted to “hush money” so his allegations of political meddling by board members would not become public.
Since Clifford quit, four Metra Board members have resigned. Two of them — chairman Brad O’Halloran and board member Larry Huggins — left after Clifford made public his patronage allegations about them.
In addition, two members of the Regional Transportation Authority Board have bowed out — Nabi Fakroddin, for serving on two governmental boards simultaneously, and the Rev. Tyrone Crider, who faced questions about how he handled a state grant.
Zuccarelli briefly replaced CTA Board member John Bouman, who resigned in July and whose term was to end in 2018, CTA officials said.