Kane, DuPage fill vacancies on transportation agency boards

Manuel Barbosa (Tribune File Photo / September 9, 2013)

Metra's board of directors will be getting its first Hispanic member with the appointment Tuesday of former federal judge Manuel Barbosa of Elgin.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen named Barbosa to the commuter rail agency's board along with the selection of Don DeWitte, the former mayor of St. Charles, to represent the county on the Regional Transportation Authority board.

Also Tuesday, the DuPage County Board confirmed Chairman Dan Cronin's appointment of John Zediker of Naperville to Metra's board, as expected. And Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointment of former Ald. Martin Oberman is expected to be approved by the City Council.

The three new appointees will bring Metra's board up to nine, giving it the ability to make major decisions, including electing a permanent chairman — although that is considered unlikely at this point.

Five board members resigned in the wake of the controversy that erupted in June after the board ousted CEO Alex Clifford and awarded him a severance payment of up to $871,000.

Barbosa replaces Mike McCoy of Aurora, who was the first to resign. His term expires in March 2016.

Barbosa and DeWitte were confirmed unanimously by the Kane County Board. They were chosen from a field of 11 by Lauzen and a bipartisan, four-member panel of County Board members.

Lauzen said his main criteria for picking Barbosa were his reputation for honesty, competence and building relationships, which will be important as a rebuilt Metra board coalesces.

"He's the personification of trustworthiness and integrity," Lauzen said.

Barbosa, 65, who retired in January after 15 years on the federal bankruptcy bench, faced extensive background checks in becoming a judge, Lauzen noted.

Born in Mexico, Barbosa worked as a child in Texas with his family of migrant workers.

Raised in Elgin, he attended Benedictine University (formerly St. Procopius College) and John Marshall Law School.

His resume lists participation in several organizations and events involving Mexican-American relations.

Barbosa was the first chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission and served on the panel for 18 years.

Barbosa acknowledged he has not been a frequent Metra rider and has little experience with transportation but said he is eager to learn.

"I recognize there are aspects of that job I will need to bring myself up to speed on," he told the Tribune. "I intend to educate myself rather quickly."

As a judge, Barbosa was assigned the bankruptcy case of Barbara Pagano, the widow of former Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano, who committed suicide in 2010 after being accused of taking $475,000 in unapproved vacation pay.

In her bankruptcy petition filed in September 2010, Barbara Pagano said her husband left her more than $1 million in debt. She settled with her creditors a year later with the help of a $500,000 payout from her husband's life insurance.

Barbosa told the Tribune the case did not pose a conflict of interest for him because a settlement was reached.

"It was resolved without my input ultimately," he said.