An investigation into whether Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano paid himself an unauthorized $56,000 bonus has expanded to look at "more serious allegations of official misconduct," according to the attorney hired to conduct the inquiry.
During an emergency meeting Friday, the Metra board placed Pagano on paid leave and hired independent attorney James Sotos to conduct an internal investigation.
"The investigation will center on, but not be limited to, the alleged unauthorized money paid to Mr. Pagano and whether policies and procedures were violated," Metra board chairman Carole Doris said in a statement.
Doris, prompted by a media inquiry from Crain's Chicago Business, started looking into the bonus allegation last Thursday. Tuesday afternoon, she asked Pagano to stop performing his duties. And on Friday, the board made it official, placing him on leave.
The investigation "will move along pretty quickly," Sotos said. "I think I can tell you safely that we are not talking months."
Pagano has agreed to remain on leave until the investigation ends and will continue to collect his $269,625 salary, Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.
Meanwhile, Bill Tupper, deputy executive director-operations, was named acting executive director.