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BGA: Overhaul Transit Boards To Change 'Culture Of Corruption'

Watchdog Seeks Overhaul Of Transit Boards

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A government watchdog group said Wednesday that the resignations of two Regional Transportation Authority board members this week pointed to larger, troubling issues for the Chicago area's transit agencies.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports RTA board member Nabi Fakroddin, of Kane County, quit the board Tuesday, because he also serves on the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and state law bars him from serving on both.

Last week, Rev. Tyrone Crider stepped down from the board, amid a controversy about his handling of a state grant.

Better Government Association president and CEO Andy Shaw said the resignations are a sign.

"Let's not get caught up in the minutiae of the scandal, let's recognize that what's really going on is the revelations about an entire culture of corruption on these transit boards," Shaw said.

Metra board chairman Brad O'Halloran resigned after revelations he was drawing a salary as an Orland Park trustee, despite a state law barring transit board members from serving on other government bodies.

Three other Metra board members also have resigned in recent days, after a controversy over a $750,000 buyout for former CEO Alex Clifford, and Clifford's allegations of political patronage at Metra.

Further, questions have been raised about Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to appoint Thornton Township supervisor Frank Zuccarelli to the CTA board, citing a loophole in the state law regarding transit board members.

The governor's office has said the prohibition on transit board members serving on other government posts applies only to federal, state, county, and municipal governments, not townships.

Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the turmoil at Metra, the CTA, and the RTA is an outgrowth of patronage and favoritism in politics.

"Then you have either the appearance or the reality that this involves trying to curry political favor," he said. "All of this … it both invites corruption and it really drives up public cynicism."

Redfield said you can have rules, and laws, and inspectors general, but people within the system need to be committed to doing things right.

Shaw said the transit boards need an overhaul, and maybe there shouldn't be four separate boards; one for each of the three Chicago area transit agencies -- Metra, Pace, and the CTA -- and the RTA Board to oversee the budgets of all three agencies.

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