Yesterday, McHenry County Blog laid out the time line for State Rep. Jack Franks’ interest in reforming Metra.
Democrat Franks introduced no legislation until after the fall election.
In the final weeks before the fall election, Metra Board member Jack Schaffer’s Liberty Outdoor posted a billboard that revealed the amount of money that Franks had received in campaign contributions from
The source of the information, according to the billboard, wash VoteSmart.org.
About a year after former Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano killed himself on the train tracks near Crystal Lake’s Hillside Road, Franks wrote a letter to McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler about getting rid of Schaffer.
Below is Koehler’s reply to Franks’ May 5th letter.
KENNETH D. KOEHLER, CHAIRMAN
McHENRY COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER
2200 N. SEMINARY AVENUE
WOODSTOCK, IL 60098
May 10, 2011
Representative Jack Franks
State Representative 63rd District
1193 South Eastwood Drive
Woodstock IL 60098
Dear Representative Franks,
In response to your recent letter concerning the Metra Board, I have to let you know I definitely do not share your point of view.
When we first appointment former State Senator Jack Schaffer to the Metra Board of Directors, we looked at his extensive background on transit issues. We concluded that he was the best choice of a person to represent McHenry County’s interest on the Metra Board. I continue to believe that to be true.
Jack was actively involved in the reform acts which created Metra, he understands the formula guarantees that are central to suburban rail and has done (in my opinion), an excellent job representing McHenry County on the Metra Board.
We all know that Metra’s problems were caused by the activities of the former Executive Director, which was in a large part a personal tragedy in so many ways.
I would suspect you have a better understanding of that than anyone in McHenry County, since your law firm is/or was representing Mr. Pagano’s estate in bankruptcy.
The Metra Board has acted swiftly and responsibly to make the changes necessary to see that a situation like that never happens again.
Individual board members are not expected to be approving individual bills or be involved in the minute decisions on any agency like Metra.
I also note with interest that you have been attacking Jack or non-board member’s decisions that were being made several years before Jack got on the Board, which hardly seems fair.
You didn’t mention any problems with any expenses paid to Jack.
I suspect that is because he hasn’t taken a dime for travel expenses for any trips to Chicago, Springfield, or elsewhere on behalf of Metra.
When we first went to Jack and asked him to serve, none of us even knew what the salary was. In fact, Jack had to be convinced that he was the right person to represent McHenry County and the other Collar Counties.
I would also suggest to you that we knew he was, in fact, a retired State Senator and had a pension, much like you will some day. That was part of the reason we felt he would be in a position to commit the number of hours necessary to serve on this board.
I have been informed that the decision to treat board members as employees was made 15 to 20 years before Jack was appointed to the board. The Metra Board salary and fringe benefits are set or regulated by legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly. If the legislature feels that those salaries and benefits are too high or low, they can change them. So please have at it and while you are at it, please look at all the board fees paid in six figures to all boards in Springfield.
Metra does in fact employ Lobbyists in Springfield and Washington DC, as does every other transit board in this nation. Metra’s expenses, compared favorably with the CTA and other major suburban rail agencies. The CTA in fact, maintains a staffed office in Washington DC, and Metra spends less money. Jack Schaffer has been in the forefront of the reform efforts at Metra.
When he was last reappointed, he indicated to me that this would be his final term, but, that he wished to be involved long enough to finish the job getting Metra back on track. His presence on the Board will help that cause.
The Metra Board has installed an Inspector General and hired a new Executive Director, Alex Clifford.
Removing Mr. Schaffer would deprive Mr. Clifford of experienced advisors and leave him with no historical perspective. This is a critical point in Metra’s life that a balance must be struck between change that needs to take place and the support needed for the new Executive Director to keep Metra moving in the right direction.
On a personal note, I think the attacks that you have leveled personally at Jack Schaffer have little or nothing to do with his service on the Metra Board (yes, we do get transcripts and tapes) and are troubling, and make me think that there is another agenda at work here.
Suburban Rail is important here in McHenry County and we need to get Metra thoroughly back on track. The number one priority should be first and foremost to protect public transit. I believe we all need to work together to get this done, and I believe that Jack’s continued service on the Metra Board is a real plus.
Kenneth D. Koehler
McHenry County Board Chairman
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A post script of Metra’s time table was attached.