Franks, Tryon differ on what Clifford hearing would bring
A couple of local lawmakers are leading a charge to put Alex Clifford in front of the House Mass Transit Committee, but they don't quite see eye to eye when it comes to whether continuing the investigation will validate or disprove some of the ousted Metra CEO's allegations.
Meanwhile, officals said Monday that Clifford will appear before the Regional Transportation Authority Wednesday.
State Reps. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, and Jack Franks, D-Marengo, have been outspoken about wanting to hear from Clifford, whose April 3 memo – written before his firing – to the Metra Board laid out allegations that he was pushed out for resisting political pressure to make certain personnel and contract decisions.
Tryon, the Republican spokesman for the Mass Transit Committee, called a previous hearing before the memo was released "very sterile" compared with details in Clifford's memorandum.
"I was told there wasn't any specific allegations against any particular board members," Tryon said Monday. "So once the memorandum was made public, it only re-created more questions."
Metra Board members aren't the only officials called out in Clifford's memo. Released in a partially redacted form Friday, it asserts that Clifford had to leave Metra for not complying with "requests for politically motivated employment actions" made by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"I do not for one instance believe Speaker Madigan said anything to that effect," Tryon said. "Whether the chairman and the acting chairman conveyed that to [Clifford] as something they specifically feared, that's different."
Tryon hinted that he did think there was something to the allegations Clifford made in the eight-page memo, finding reason for skepticism in the large separation agreement – which included a confidentiality clause – and in Metra's recent history.
He's asking the Mass Transit Committee, in cooperation with Madigan, to use subpoena powers to summon Clifford if he doesn't agree to testify himself.
Clifford received $718,000 as part of his severance package. He told The Associated Press over the weekend that he hoped to know early this week whether he'd be allowed to testify.
In a letter Monday to the RTA, attorney Michael Shakman says Metra attorney Joseph Gagliardo released Clifford from the confidentiality clause, allowing him to testify in front of the RTA. It wasn't clear Monday whether that meant he also would go in front of the Mass Transit Committee.
Franks, who's participating in the Mass Transit Committee hearings, was hesitant to give validity to any of Clifford's claims.
"We don't know what's going on," he said. "We've had a one-sided story. He writes a memorandum, but the document doesn't speak for itself. It doesn't provide context."
Among the questions Franks wants answered is why Clifford waited so long to bring up the points raised in his memo. He said he'd like to know whether Clifford had a legal obligation to report things earlier.
"First we need to see the facts, so I'm not sure," Franks said. "We need to know what the law is on these things."