Local Government

Marc Munaretto gets Metra Board nod

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Board members opposed to appointing former member Marc Munaretto to the Metra Board questioned his ability to make friends and play well with others.

County Board members who supported Munaretto didn't disagree. But their argument – that Munaretto's financial and political acumen make him the best for the job advocating for the county's suburban rail interests – won the day.

Board members voted Tuesday, 16-6, to appoint Munaretto to the four-year term as McHenry County's representative on the Metra Board, effective June 30. Present representative Jack Schaffer did not seek a third term.

"I'm delighted that the McHenry County Board has affirmed my appointment to the Metra Board, and I'm ready to do the best job I know how," Munaretto, of Algonquin, said Tuesday afternoon.

Munaretto was selected by County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, from a pack of a dozen applicants. He served 14 years on the County Board until 2012, when he chose not to run for re-election. For much of that time he was chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee, during which time the board achieved its longtime goal of an AAA credit rating from Moody's Investors Service.

Board member Ken Koehler first raised opposition, stating "it should be no surprise" given his strained relationship with Munaretto during Koehler's eight years as County Board chairman. He alleged that Munaretto has a lack of personal skills that would hamper his representation.

"When it comes to working with people, it's a whole different story," Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, said.

Board member Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, got some laughs from the board when he described his first impression of working with Munaretto as, "I'm not getting paid enough for this job." But he described Munaretto as a "very, very brilliant" government servant who will fight for McHenry County's interests.

"The word that comes to mind – the nicest one – is 'tenacity,' " Provenzano said.

Munaretto joins a Metra Board in the process of change and rebuilding after back-to-back scandals involving its top leaders tarnished its image and spurred calls for an overhaul of Chicago-area mass transit.

The Metra Board in 2013 approved a generous exit package for new CEO Alex 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 play along with patronage requests.

Clifford had been hired to help clean up Metra in the wake of the scandal surrounding former CEO Phil Pagano, who killed himself in 2010 near his rural Crystal Lake home by stepping in front of a Metra train hours before the Metra Board was set to fire him for collecting at least $475,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts. Pagano on at least two occasions forged the board president's signature to collect.

Munaretto served for two decades as Algonquin Township clerk until last year, when he unsuccessfully ran for township supervisor against incumbent Dianne Klemm.

The Metra Board pays $15,000 a year, but new appointees are no longer eligible for pension or insurance benefits as a result of reform bills that passed in the wake of the Pagano and Clifford scandals.

County Board members on Tuesday also voted to reappoint Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley to another four-year term on the Pace Board, which oversees suburban bus service. Shepley was the only applicant – state law requires Pace Board members to be either a current mayor or village president in the county in question, or a former mayor or village president residing in the county.

How they voted

The McHenry County Board voted Tuesday, 16-6, to appoint former board member Marc Munaretto to the Metra Board.

Voting no were Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, John Jung, R-Woodstock, John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, and Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock.

Board members Mary McClellan, R-Holiday Hills, and Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, were absent.

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