Madigan hit for persistence of Metra hiring requests

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SPRINGFIELD — The state Legislature’s former ethics watchdog criticized House Speaker Michael Madigan’s “timing and persistence” in pushing Metra to hire or promote members of his patronage army but ultimately decided the Chicago Democrat did nothing that violated state ethics laws.

The secret report by one-time legislative inspector general Thomas Homer outlined several examples of how the speaker appeared to use his clout to shape personnel decisions at the suburban rail agency, according to one member of a legislative ethics panel that reviewed the report.

Homer detailed one instance in which Metra chairwoman Carole Doris exited Madigan’s statehouse office, after a meeting to discuss “state issues,” with a sticky note containing the names of  two employees the speaker wanted promoted, the source confirmed.

In another instance, Homer noted how Metra lobbyist Tom Cullen, a former aide to the speaker, was seen carrying two resumes from Madigan’s office.

And in yet another example, Homer detailed how Madigan contacted a precinct captain on his cell phone to inform him about a state job.

Madigan “should have realized, given his influential position, that by making the requests at the conclusion of meetings with Metra officials to discuss funding and other legislative issues, he would be creating reciprocal expectations,” Homer wrote in the report, which was first disclosed by the Chicago Tribune.

Homer’s report, reviewed by members of the Legislative Ethics Commission, did not contain recommendations for sanctions against Madigan for his alleged conduct.

“Speaker Madigan asked the legislative inspector general to investigate this matter. He cooperated fully with the investigation and provided all requested information. The legislative inspector general has found no violation of any law, including the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said early Tuesday in a prepared statement

Brown would not respond to whether Madigan had been provided a copy of the report or would be willing to make a copy of it public, referring back only to his prepared statement.

“You have my answer to your questions,” Brown told the Sun-Times.

While Madigan could release Homer’s closed report, state law prohibits the legislative inspector general from making the report public since he did not conclude Madigan broke any ethics laws.

“Such matters are required to be kept confidential,” Homer said Tuesday.

A Metra spokesman Tuesday said he had not seen Homer’s analysis.

Homer’s report came after a task force convened by Gov. Pat Quinn that included former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald accused Madigan in late March of “in effect” deciding for years if some job candidates were hired at Metra. Brown dismissed that report as “amateur.”

The task force was formed after Metra’s former CEO, Alex Clifford, said in 2013 that Madigan possessed a “moral and ethical … character flaw” because he allegedly relayed through the agency’s lobbyist his desire for Clifford to sign off on a pay increase for one Madigan political loyalist and a promotion for another.

A 2013 investigation by the Sun-Times and Better Government Association found that 29 out of 30 circulators of Madigan’s nominating petitions worked or previously worked for a governmental body in Illinois, including in jobs for which politics isn’t supposed to be a factor in hiring.

One of those was Patrick Ward, the one-time Metra employee who was at the center of Clifford’s explosive allegations that launched Homer’s investigation. Ward drew a public pension while also working at Metra.

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