Client’s Challenge: A Director’s Suicide Raises Questions

Chicago’s Metra system is the second largest public commuter railroad in the country. In May 2010, long-time Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano stepped in front of a moving Metra train and was killed in an apparent suicide. This tragic event occurred just as criminal investigations into his alleged misconduct began to mount and just hours before a Metra board meeting was scheduled to determine his status within the organization.

In the weeks that followed, Metra confronted a surge of complaints from individuals across the organization, and faced other sudden challenges from internal and external stakeholders questioning the integrity and effectiveness of its practices and operations. The Metra Board decided to create the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and asked Hillard Heintze to serve as the Interim Metra OIG.

Our Solution: Investigating Fraud, Waste and Abuse

Metra (1) gave Hillard Heintze jurisdiction over Metra and all Board members, officers, employees, contracts and others doing business with Metra and (2) charged it with investigating allegations of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

The Hillard Heintze team clicked into high gear, establishing established hotline and intake procedures within days. By the sixth week, the team had received four times the annual average number of complaints received by other comparably sized OIGs. As the Hillard Heintze Metra OIG investigators addressed complaint after complaint, the team also launched outreach and educational initiatives and provided advisory counsel to the Metra Board through phone calls, conferences, in-person meetings and the submission of strategic advisory memoranda on a range of critical management issues.

Impact on the Client: New Light on Issues. And a New Path Forward.

Metra weathered the crisis. Every complaint presented received a fair review. Where appropriate, files were passed directly to federal and state law enforcement authorities. Stakeholders from employees to riders found a voice in the OIG. Employees began to accept and expect this new culture of integrity. And management gained independent insight untarnished by a conflict of interest.

Unplugged: The Project Manager's Post-Engagement Perspective

“At one time or another, we’ve all used the phrase ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ And many participants in and observers of this particular crisis found their voice – and defined their perspective and platform – before all the facts were on the table.

But as a principal on an Inspector General team – any IG team – you are valued, and your team is trusted, only because every single one of you places facts before feelings – and transparency over ambiguity. And places an unshakable faith in empirical findings over intuition, or instinct, or agenda. You can’t find the truth if you don’t.”

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