Every railroad needs to operate on schedule, right Metra riders? If the timetable says departure is at 8:15 and arrival is 8:45, passengers expect Metra to stick to it. Doesn’t always happen, of course.
The commuter rail agency’s board has a policy that says that its chairmanship should operate on a schedule, too. That policy, adopted in 2012, requires that the leadership post be rotated every four years among the board members from Cook County, including Chicago, and the board members from one of the five other counties that Metra serves.
It’s kind of like a term limit. That policy was one of the first reforms to emerge from the Phil Pagano scandal, and was aimed at curbing the kind of one-man rule under which Metra operated for decades.
You remember Pagano? He was the autocratic executive director who committed suicide in 2010 after being caught stealing $475,000 in vacation pay and forging memos to cover it up.
For too long, Pagano ran Metra virtually unchallenged. Metra’s 11-member board of directors, comprised of political appointees hand-picked by the six county chairs and commissioners, gave him free rein. For most of this time, Metra’s chairman, from distant McHenry County, was Pagano’s enabler. Patronage was rife. Contracts went to pals. One board member went to prison.
Pagano’s unchecked greed exposed a glaring lack of oversight by Metra’s directors. An outraged public started paying attention, and the politicians – finally put in the spotlight themselves — began feeling the heat.
In 2011, Metra’s then-chairwoman, DuPage appointee Carole Doris, led the effort to bring…