April 19, 2024

McHenry County Board to interview 12 applicants for Metra board

WOODSTOCK – A bevy of current and former county political officials are among the 12 applicants who will be interviewed to represent McHenry County on the Metra Board.

A panel of three County Board members will interview the applicants starting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and the board is expected to vote on the panel’s recommendation at its Sept. 15 evening meeting.

The position has been vacant since the end of August, when former Metra representative Marc Munaretto, himself a former County Board member, resigned one year into his four-year term, citing time conflicts.

Applicants who now hold an elected or appointed office include current County Board member Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, who served eight years as board chairman, Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager, and Zoning Board of Appeals member Charles Eldredge.

Former officials who applied include former County Board member Virginia Peschke, former McHenry County College trustees Tom Wilbeck and Dennis Adams, and former Richmond village trustee David Kielpinski, who lost his re-election bid earlier this year. Applicant Robert O'Halloran unsuccessfully ran earlier this year for Harvard City Council.

Other applicants to be interviewed Tuesday are Fred Martin, James Nixon, Gary Overbay and former McHenry County prosecutor Terence Nader.

McHenry County has representatives on the boards of Metra, Pace and the Regional Transportation Authority who oversee them along with the Chicago Transit Authority.

The commuter rail board has been under significant scrutiny in recent years after back-to-back corruption scandals that tarnished the agency’s credibility, sparked lawmaker outrage and prompted several reforms.

Former Metra CEO Phil Pagano killed himself in 2010 near his rural Crystal Lake home by stepping in front of a Metra train hours before his board was set to fire him for collecting $475,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts and other fiscal irregularities. Pagano borrowed so much against his executive compensation package that he died owing Metra at least $127,000.

The Metra Board in 2011 hired Alex Clifford as CEO in an effort to clean up the agency. But the Metra Board in June 2013 approved a generous exit package for Clifford, with eight months remaining on his first contract. When pressed by angry state lawmakers, Clifford alleged he was forced out because he would not acquiesce to political patronage requests.

The Metra Board pays $15,000 a year, but new appointees no longer receive pension or insurance benefits as a result of reform laws that passed after the scandals.

If either Sager or Koehler get the nod, it is unclear what that would mean for their current elected roles. State law forbids any Metra representative from receiving compensation from another elected or appointed office.