The lone Metra board member who voted against a severance package for former CEO Alex Clifford may have inappropriately sent internal board documents to the ousted agency leader.
Jack Schaffer, who is the McHenry County representative on the Metra board, confirmed that he sent Clifford an email with information attached about his evaluation.
The email came to light after Crain’s Chicago Business obtained a copy of Clifford’s response to it.
Schaffer said he sent the email in an effort to be fair to Clifford, and to give him an opportunity to respond to comments from board members.
Schaffer said it was no secret there were board members who wanted to oust Clifford, who never had a chance to respond to points of contention. Clifford alleged that he was forced out because he would not turn a blind eye to patronage requests.
“I thought Alex had to get a chance to tell his side of the story,” Schaffer said. “I sent the list to Alex and felt he needed to do a rebuttal in writing.”
Three-and-a-half weeks after Schaffer’s email, Clifford responded.
In his emailed response to Schaffer, Clifford said he looked at a few of the documents, and his lawyers concluded the attachments were protected by attorney-client privilege and that Schaffer was not authorized to share the documents with Clifford.
Clifford then told Schaffer he intended to delete an email sent March 12.
“Alex is smarter than I am,” Schaffer continued. “He realized it was privileged information.”
Schaffer said he thinks Clifford had the information in the attached documents prior to Schaffer sending his original email.
Since Clifford’s departure, five Metra board members, including former Chairman Brad O’Halloran, have resigned.
“I take his [Clifford’s] word over Brad O’Halloran any day of the week,” Schaffer said in referring to the board member’s desire to be rid of Clifford.
Clifford resigned from Metra and received a severance package of $718,000. When the board voted to approve the deal, Schaffer was the only one to vote against the deal, which many have called hush money.
Clifford had threatened to go public with allegations of political patronage hiring.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said that even if Schaffer did not have malicious intent in passing along the information, the email sent March 12 by Schaffer was inappropriate and breached “his fiduciary duty.”
“It’s clear he gave confidential and privileged information,” Franks said. Franks reiterated his belief that Schaffer, who has less than a year left on his term on the board, should resign.
Franks said Clifford’s response was meant to cover himself.
“[Schaffer] may not of had malicious intent, but he still had a fiduciary obligation,” Franks said.