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'Bounty' remark stalls politician's bid for Metra board
Democrats dig in heels on nomination

Thursday, June 28, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Richard Wronski and Mickey Ciokajlo

After Gary Skoien, the former chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, offered a $10,000 "bounty" for the arrest and conviction of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley two years ago, he was fired from his real estate job. On Wednesday, the political gaffe may have cost him a bid to become a member of Metra's board.

Suburban Cook County commissioners had no trouble reappointing two Metra board members, Arlene Mulder of Arlington Heights and James Dodge of Orland Park, but the commissioners split bitterly over Skoien's nomination, leaving its fate uncertain.
Skoien's next chance -- if he gets one -- will be in September. But it appears likely the former aide to Gov. James Thompson will have to formally apologize for offering a reward for information leading to Daley's conviction. Denounced at the time by officials of both parties, the "stunt" still stings.

Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park, whose district includes portions of Chicago's Northwest Side, where Daley is popular, moved Wednesday to approve Mulder and Dodge, but deferred action on Skoien's nomination until the commissioners meet again.

Silvestri acknowledged that the "bounty" comment still rankled some officials, but said it was up to Skoien whether to offer an apology.

Silvestri was a protege of Rosemont's late mayor, Donald Stephens, a Republican power broker with a long history of working closely with Democrats, who said in 2005 he was "personally embarrassed and offended" by Skoien's comments and called on him to apologize.

Daley has not been charged with wrongdoing in connection with a federal investigation of City Hall. He called the bounty "below the belt" and a deep offense to him and his family. John Daley, the mayor's brother, is a Cook County commissioner but was not involved in Wednesday's caucus session.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Skoien called the lingering issue "unfortunate."

He said he spoke briefly with Daley at Stephens' funeral in April and "reached out" to him in a personal letter in which he asked to meet with him. "I'd rather have a conversation privately with the mayor and not do something public," he said.

Other GOP commissioners were backing Skoien as a replacement for current Metra board member Elonzo Hill of Country Club Hills, a former executive with the CTA. Metra's board of seven members serve four-year terms, but only three appointments for the commuter rail agency's board were up for consideration.

Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) said she sought to oust Hill because he "betrayed" her personally and their south suburban constituency by backing DuPage County's Carole Doris to succeed longtime Metra Chairman Jeffrey Ladd.

GOP commissioners Gregg Goslin of Glenview and Tony Peraica of Riverside also favor Skoien.

But when Skoien's name came up Wednesday, Democratic commissioners objected vociferously.

Joan Murphy of Crestwood complained she hadn't been adequately notified of Skoien's nomination. She suggested the move may be an "abuse of power" by the Republicans.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) said he wanted the appointment deferred until the General Assembly decides if it is going to change how Metra members are appointed. Suffredin said there is also concern about angering members of the black caucus in Springfield if they dump Hill, who is black.

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