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Our View: O’Halloran made the right move in leaving Metra

Updated: September 5, 2013 6:48AM



Facing strong criticism for his key role in a highly questionable severance package for Metra’s former chief executive and under growing pressure to resign as Metra Board chairman, Brad O’Halloran made the right move and gave up the post. His continued service had become untenable in light of his weak defense of the severance deal and being exposed as more interested in a political power trip than in overseeing a major commuter railroad.

While we’re glad to see O’Halloran quit as chairman, we are dismayed that he didn’t accept responsibility for the political mess engulfing Metra. In his resignation letter, he blames his predicament on a “media and political frenzy,” saying that staying as chairman would distract from the “critical issues facing Metra” and keep the focus “on the next big headline or attention-grabbing quotation.” Doesn’t sound like a guy who gets it.

In reality, O’Halloran was likely the main figure in creating a political uproar that he naively believed he could avoid via a gag order on all involved as part of Clifford’s cushy deal. When details of the severance package that could reach $718,000 became public, it naturally caused a major controversy and inquiries by a legislative committee and the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees Metra.

The gag order quickly crumbled, revealing Clifford’s memo that Metra board members had wanted to stay secret. It alleged that Clifford was forced out because he resisted pressure from some on the board, mostly O’Halloran and Larry Huggins, to make personnel and contract decisions based on political clout. The memo also showed that O’Halloran had been less than honest earlier with the media and some legislators regarding Clifford’s accusations.

We recently called for most of the Metra board to resign to enable the agency to get past this political mess ASAP. O’Halloran was the third of the 11 to do so, and, happily, Huggins did as well on Friday.

We had high hopes for O’Halloran, of Orland Park, the first Metra chairman from the Southland, but he’s gone after less than a year on the job. How disappointing.



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