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House votes to make secret government severance deals public

SPRINGFIELD-Inspired by the Metra patronage scandal, a bid to bring sunshine to secret severance deals that Illinois governments sign with departing employees unanimously passed the Illinois House Thursday.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Renee Kosel, R-New Lenox, was triggered by the refusal last year by Metra to initially divulge details of the $871,000 separation package it had signed with ex-CEO Alex Clifford.

Clifford got the deal after privately lodging explosive charges against House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, for allegedly throwing his political weight around in trying to get political allies hired at the transit agency or get them paid more.

On Wednesday, Madigan’s office announced that Legislative Inspector General Thomas Homer had closed an investigation into the speaker and two other legislators, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez and Rep. Luis Arroyo, based on Clifford’s allegations.

Kosel’s plan, which passed 106-0, would bar local governments from making publicly-funded severance agreements like the one signed by Metra and Clifford secret.

“I am so sick of governments trying to hide their dirty laundry and put it under the rug. It happens all the time,” said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who voted for her legislation.

Kosel’s legislation now moves to the Senate.