For months, the Better Government Association and other citizen action groups have been talking with area transit officials about creating an independent Inspector General who will root out waste, fraud and corruption at the area’s transit agencies.
Unfortunately, it appears the RTA—the umbrella authority for Metra, Pace and CTA—is refusing to take this inspector general discussion seriously—despite a troubling series of events that include the recent suicide of Metra’s executive director and the subsequent revelations about his misuse of almost a half million dollars in taxpayer money
To say the RTA lacks a sense of urgency on the Inspector General issue is a gross under-statement.
The BGA and other good government groups have attended IG negotiations throughout the spring, summer and fall, joining representatives from the RTA, Metra, Pace, and the CTA and lawmakers including state Senator Heather Steans, state Senator Susan Garrett, and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.
By the end of our last negotiation session in September, it appeared we were making real progress. Unfortunately, much of what we thought was progress was merely political posturing on the part of the transit officials.
John Gates, the recently appointed RTA Board chairman, agreed that a compromise approach to selecting an IG was needed and that an action plan would be developed. Gates, along with RTA Board representative Clint Sabin, promised to relay that very message to board members and then ask them to comment.
But that’s not how it turned out.
Not only were the opinions expressed in our negotiations recanted by Gates at the recent RTA Board meeting but also it was apparent that he had not discussed the good government groups’ proposals with other board members.
In fact, based on comments and questions from board members, it appeared that the topic of the IG had not been discussed with them at all.
Adding insult to injury, the RTA’s government relation’s representative audibly snorted and laughed at some of the testimony offered by good government group representatives during the public meeting.
Considering the conduct of its leaders during the last meeting, you have to wonder if the RTA was even in the room during the past five months of negotiations!
It’s as if the RTA has forgotten the reason good government groups support the creation of an independent Inspector General for the transit agencies: someone fell asleep at the switch, and the ensuing scandal cost taxpayers a bundle.
The formation of a strong independent Inspector General office is in the best interest of the RTA customers and the taxpayers—the very people who support the area’s transit system and pay the transit leaders salaries.
Hey RTA: Did you hear that?