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Metra chair asks former U.S. attorney to investigate agency's hiring, contracting policies

Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran has called a special meeting of the agency's board to approve hiring former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins to conduct an independent investigation of, and make recommendations for, Metra's hiring and contract policies.

The investigation and recommendations will address issues raised by former Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford in his April 3, 2013, memo to the board and at a July 17 meeting of Chicago's Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), according to a press release posted on Metra's website.

Collins will be asked to report his findings and recommendations to Metra's board within 90 days, according to the notice.

Clifford resigned as Metra's top executive last month. In his first public comments since stepping down, Clifford alleged at an RTA hearing held on July 17 that three Illinois state legislators – including House Speaker Michael Madigan — had interfered with Metra personnel decisions, and that two Metra board members — O'Halloran and former acting chair Larry Huggins — tried to push contracts that would have benefited their own business associates, according to Chicago Tribune reports.

In an April 3 memorandum to Metra board members, Clifford raised concerns about alleged patronage practices, which he later said was behind his departure from the agency. O'Halloran and Huggins have denied Clifford's allegations.

The legislative inspector general's office is investigating Clifford's claims for any legal or ethical violations, according to the Tribune.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/22/2013