Almost to the day, one year after Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano committed suicide by stepping in front of the last morning train from McHenry, Democratic Party State Rep. Jack Franks decided to send a letter to McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler calling for his Metra appointee Jack Schaffer to step down.
When I write about my former legislative colleague from the 1970’s, I identify him as a former State Senator and sometimes as a former McHenry County Republican Party Chairman.
To put Franks’ letter into context, however, it is not his membership on the Metra board that is most important. It is not his Republican Party activity.
It is his ownership of the Liberty Outdoor billboard company that is significant.
Prior to the fall election, when Franks was facing his first Republican challenger in three elections, McHenry Grade School and Library Board member John O’Neill, the man who would run for statewide office or Congress, faced a withering billboard on the way to work.
Citing a reputable source, it pointed out Franks’ main sources of campaign funding–besides his family:
I understand the placement was paid for, but Franks doesn’t like bad publicity.
So, what to do?
The same day Franks introduced HB 1548 to abolish Metra as a separate agency. He did not call it for a committee vote.
Since Pagano’s financial improprieties became public in April of 2010, I looked at last year’s bill introductions by Franks.
There were so many that I might have missed one about the Metra board, one calling for replacement of all members, for instance, but all I could find after the public learned of the money Pagano made off with was House Bill 6946.
It was not introduced until the week after the fall election.
It called for the 2011 election of a nine-member RTA Board, none of which would be paid. The current CTA, Metra and PACE Boards would be eliminated.
That certainly would have gotten rid of Schaffer as a Metra Board member.
The same day, November 11, 2010, Franks introduced HB 6950. Similar goal–election of a non-partisan, unpaid nine-member Regional Transportation Board and elimination of the current ruling superstructure.
Both bills were introduced after the billboard, I would note
So, if Franks was not interested enough in Metra governance to introduce a bill prior to the billboard paper being pasted on the Route 47 Liberty Outdoor right south of Woodstock Harley-Davidson, why would anyone question that the motivation for his trying to get rid of Schaffer from the Metra Board was vindictiveness?
Franks’ post script to his letter to Koehler reads,
I know you and I disagree on this, but I feel so strongly that we must go in a different direction to separate us from the past and to start over.
I know Jack is your friend but in your heart you know his departure is best for the county.