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Legislative committee plans to investigate Metra practices

July 12, 2010 9:26 PM
A legislative committee plans to look into "accountability and openness" at Metra in response to disclosures of abuse of authority and inadequate oversight at the commuter rail agency, a state legislator said today.

State Sen. Susan Garrett said she is troubled that Metra has not named a permanent inspector general to act as an internal watchdog, and is dissatisfied with Metra's effort to have an outside auditor review the agency's finances and past spending.

"It's my belief we need to shed some light on what's been happening at Metra over the last three decades," Garrett (D-Lake Forest) said Monday. The Senate committee on state government will meet July 28.

Metra has hired a firm headed by former Chicago police Superintendent Terry Hillard and Arnette Heintze, former Secret Service special agent, as interim inspector general, and contracted with the accounting firm Blackman-Kallick to begin a forensic audit, Chairwoman Carole Doris told Garrett in a letter.

Metra has been embroiled in a scandal for months over the disclosure that former Executive Director Phil Pagano had abused his authority and allegedly violated state and federal laws by improperly receiving $475,000 in vacation pay and forging Doris' signature on memos.

The Tribune reported over the weekend that Pagano privately received pay raises and awarded extra compensation to himself and top executives while saying the agency was freezing salaries of employees to justify imposing fare hikes on the public.

--Richard Wronski