The Metra Memogate Mess so far has resulted in:
- CEO Alex Clifford gone at a potential cost of as much as $718,000.
- Director Mike McCoy of Kane County resigned.
- Director Paul Darley of DuPage County resigned.
- Board chairman Brad O'Halloran resigned.
- Vice chairman Larry Huggins resigned.
- An investigation by the state office of the inspector general.
- An investigation by the legislative inspector general.
- Hearings-investigations ongoing by the Regional Transit Authority.
- Hearings-investigations ongoing by the House Mass Transit Authority.
That's a lot of results since the-you-know-what hit the fan when the outrageous severance deal was voted on June 21, just a bit more than six weeks ago.
That any public, tax-funded body's members believed offering such severance was acceptable is outrageous. The secrecy directors clung to in trying to get through the mess is offensive and a prime example of how not to conduct the public's business.
But, look back at that list of results above.
That's a lot in six weeks' time. Those are some hefty results. They demonstrate what can happen when enough citizens truly reach their limit, voice their disgust and consistently demand better.
In this case, the outrage isn't ebbing. More and more people are fed up and disgusted. Hard-working journalists keep digging and won't stop. The stories keep coming. The anger keeps growing.
And if it continues, more results and more change will come.
There still are investigations to be completed. There still are results from a previous investigation that is being held hostage by Metra officials, who claim they don't need to release those findings they say found no evidence of wrongdoing. (Then release the report by former U.S. Attorney Roger Heaton that cost us another $52,000 of our money.)
There are calls for more resignations and an end to any such severance deals and all such confidentiality clauses that attempted to prevent Clifford and Metra directors from having to talk about the nepotism, cronyism and deal-making that are being alleged.
And there's House Speaker Michael Madigan who vows he should be investigated and will be exonerated.
It's true that public boards whose members are supposed to guard the public trust and our tax money continue to send people packing with scant information released to those of us who are paying the bills. Another example of a six-figure severance just occurred a few weeks back at the Lake County Housing Authority.
So, this is not to say that everything is fine now and all is well. It is far from well and we remain riddled with corruption, cronyism and secrecy at Metra and in too many public board rooms.
This is to say, though, that we're making some progress. We're witnessing some success. If more of us start monitoring our governments, speaking up and demanding better, we can make a positive difference.
It takes commitment and care. It takes persistence, day after day after day after day. If we all do that, we will see more success.
Metra's Memogate could just be the start of something really big: an activated citizenry.
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