Clifford severance cost Metra $1.3 million

Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford, shown testifying before the RTA board in July 2013, collected about $650,000 through his severance deal with the suburban transit agency. | AP Photo
Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford, shown testifying before the RTA board in July 2013, collected about $650,000 through his severance deal with the suburban transit agency. | AP Photo

A controversial severance deal with former Metra CEO Alex Clifford ended up costing the suburban rail agency $1.3 million, officials revealed Thursday.

Of that tab, Clifford got $652,363 in salary, accrued time off, medical insurance, relocation expenses and attorneys fees after agreeing to bail out of his contract eight months early.

Outside attorneys got a slightly bigger chunk. They were paid $662,494 to defend Metra and assist with investigations into issues raised during and after the severance deal. Most of the outside attorney fees involved outside counsel retained by then-Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran, Metra said in a news release.

Clifford’s June 21, 2013 severance deal stretched over 26 months and would have been worth up to $871,000 had he not found a similar-paying job over that time. However, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District hired Clifford this past May, shaving $219,564 off the original golden handshake maximum, Metra indicated.

Clifford’s separation agreement gave him retroactive raises plus raises after he left Metra. One Metra board member later called it part “hush” money that followed Clifford’s allegations that some board members were trying to oust him because he would not “play ball” on patronage and contracts.

Disclosure of the farewell deal was followed by a legislative hearing into the matter, an RTA audit, and was cited as part of the reason for the creation of a gubernatorial transit task force.

New Metra Board Chairman Martin Oberman requested the accounting of the Clifford deal to “prevent a recurrence of the issues which led to the Clifford settlement and to reinforce Metra’s commitment to transparency,’’ Metra said in a news release Thursday.

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