Category Archives: CTA

CTA Employee Saved from Firing after Pol Intervenes

State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago)

A CTA “L” supervisor who was recommended for firing following a rail yard mishap was instead slapped with a three-day suspension after an influential state lawmaker raised questions about the disciplinary case, the Better Government Association has learned.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who is chairman of the Illinois House Mass Transit Committee, called CTA President Rich Rodriguez on Sept. 9 to discuss CTA disciplinary proceedings against Nereida Santa, CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney confirmed. Roughly a week later, the recommended punishment was reduced to a three-day unpaid suspension.

CTA officials contend Santa was at the helm of an out-of-service Blue Line train that rolled through what effectively is a stop sign in the Forest Park rail yard Aug. 20. No passengers were on board, nobody was hurt and there was no damage to equipment.

Despite the appearance of exerting his influence in an internal CTA matter, Arroyo told the BGA he was just helping a constituent who had come to him extremely worried about losing her job.

“The job of a legislator is to inquire when you think something is not right,” Arroyo said. “I just inquired. She said, ‘They’re treating me bad.’ . . . I put in a call to see what’s going on.”

According to Arroyo, Rodriguez said: “Let it go through the proper channels.” Arroyo said his response was: “OK, I just wanted to know.”

Gaffney said Santa’s punishment was “administered according to CTA rules and procedures,” and wasn’t “influenced by calls from elected officials.”

Earlier this year, Arroyo caused a stir when it was revealed that people with ties to him – including a daughter, and a son’s girlfriend – landed on Metra’s payroll. Arroyo has insisted that, while he pushes for more Latino employment at Metra, the CTA and Pace – the transit agencies regulated by the legislative committee he oversees – he does not seek preferential treatment for anyone.

Santa, who could not be reached for comment, has steadfastly denied doing anything wrong.

“Rep. Arroyo sits in a position of power over CTA budgets and operations,” BGA Executive Director Andy Shaw said, “so any call from him to a CTA official represents undue pressure—intentional or not—and that creates a conflict of interest because CTA employees without allies in key positions don’t have the same benefit. That tilts the playing field unfairly.”

This story was reported by BGA Investigations Editor Robert Herguth.

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RTA Official on Business Troubles: ‘I, too, am not perfect.’

Rev. Tyrone Crider (Photo/Facebook)

He’s a man of the Good Book who may not be particularly good with the books.

Some weeks back, the Better Government Association wrote about the Rev. Tyrone Crider, who sits on the board of the Regional Transportation Authority, a public agency that regulates Metra, Pace and the CTA. On the side, Crider is the publisher of a monthly religion-oriented newspaper called The Gospel Tribune, which, the BGA discovered, has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in advertisements from the very transit agencies Crider helps oversee.

Seems like a pretty clear conflict of interest.

Now we’ve learned Crider’s newspaper corporation wasn’t even in good standing with the state at the time he was accepting some of those fees.

Even as the newspaper kept publishing, the corporate entity was involuntarily dissolved earlier this year, apparently because Crider failed to “file an annual report and pay an annual franchise tax” with the Illinois secretary of state’s office, documents indicate.

Crider recently tapped an attorney to help him sort through the paperwork and requirements.

Someone who knows Crider portrayed him as well meaning, but not really “a business expert.”

Which raises this question: If Crider can’t handle his own business affairs, is he qualified to sit on a board that is responsible for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars?

Crider emailed us a statement indicating he’s in the hospital for heart surgery, so he’s focusing on his health right now. But, he wrote: “We have just completed an election where candidates exposed each [others’] flaws, mistakes and errors. I, too, am not perfect. If and when it is determined that I made any mistakes or errors in completing my economic disclosure forms, filings for corporate governance [or] any other business or personal matter, I will immediately begin the process to correct such matters.”

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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CTA Insecurity a Boon for Joyriders?

CTA's 103rd Street garage (WGN-TV)

>> SECURITY SIEVE AT CTA
Let’s say there are a couple hundred buses at the CTA’s 103rd Street garage.

And let’s say each one of those buses is worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

So let’s figure, conservatively, there’s $60 million in vehicles at the site, plus millions more in parts, fuel and other materials – all owned by taxpayers of the Chicago area.

Sound like a place that might deserve a little security?

Apparently not to the CTA, which acknowledged to the BGA and WGN-TV that there are no surveillance cameras at the garage, except for some “older” models, mostly at the “vault area and storage rooms.”

Security cameras probably would have come in handy last month when a guy pretending to be a CTA bus driver showed up, stole a bus and drove a route, even picking up riders.

A CTA spokeswoman notes there are cameras aboard all buses, and there have been since 2003.

“We don’t have unlimited funding so we have to set priorities,” she said in an email.

And the “high priority” is to disperse cameras in areas frequented by customers, she said.

Lucky for our impostor, but not necessarily good government.

>> LET ‘ER RIP
Of course, the CTA has beefed up security in the wake of that embarrassing joyride.

But not everybody is happy about it.

Bus drivers now are being required to make their IDs “visible” while they’re on the clock. Many are wearing them around their necks, like a necklace.

Sounds reasonable, right?

The trouble, according to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 chief Darrell Jefferson, is that may encourage rip and runs – in other words, thieves grabbing the IDs, knowing they allow free rides, and then running off.

“That’s definitely a worry for us,” Jefferson said.

But maybe this is good government.

>> PERSONALIZED SERVICE
While the guy who made off with the bus was pretty brazen, he certainly wasn’t the first person to steal one.

Jefferson recalled that back in the mid-1990s he was dispatched to the North Side to pick up a bus that had been swiped then abandoned.

That type of thing happens now and then — often because it’s late, there’s no service and someone simply needs “a ride home,” he said.

Don’t remember Ralph Kramden ever telling a story like that.

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.

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