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Another suicide?

Friday, May 7, 2010

* This is becoming a deeply disturbing pattern in Illinois politics

Metra’s longtime executive director, Phil Pagano, apparently walked in front of a Metra train in Crystal Lake this morning, killing himself, sources said.

Pagano was on paid administrative leave from Metra, where he had been executive director since 1990, and had worked for the agency since its creation in 1984.

The fatal collision occurred on the tracks near Hillside and Terra Cotta roads by Sternes Woods Park in Crystal Lake.

“It appears to be a suicide,” Sheriff Keith Nygren said. Nygren would not confirm the identity of the victim.

The sheriff said there appeared to be no car near the train tracks, and that the victim appeared to walk on them.

Orlando Jones, Chris Kelly, Michael Scott and now maybe Pagano. All under corruption investigation.

Chicago Magazine, by the way, has a long, disturbing profile of Chris Kelly. It’s not online yet, but the author was interviewed by Chicago Tonight. Go have a look.

And let’s keep it toned down in comments, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


39 Comments
  1. - anon - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:49 am:

    Its sad anytime a person takes one’s own life. I wish that people would consider the consequences of their actions before it reaches the point where suicide becomes the answer. So sad.


  2. - Leave a light on George - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:54 am:

    Can’t help but wonder how dark the secrets are that went to the grave with these folks.


  3. - WiseGuy - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 10:58 am:

    I know its tempting to speculate, but there will plenty of grave digging in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s just hold off on that a bit, please. No matter what you think or know about the guy, this is just too sad.


  4. - Aldyth - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:03 am:

    Deepest sympathies to his family.


  5. - siriusly - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    You decide to take your own life, okay. But why step in front of a train? Essentially causing the train driver to kill you. ABC7 did a piece on those guys last year, some of them are so emotionally scarred from the incidents they can’t continue working. Surely this person knew that.

    I wonder what the rest of this story is. I assume that there’s more there there.


  6. - dth - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:10 am:

    My sympathies are with his family, but what a sad and stupid act that will affect the driver of that train profoundly. I am speechless.


  7. - wordslinger - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:12 am:

    Stepping in front of a Metra train? That’s incredibly chilling.

    There’s was an ominous tone to this story from the get-go.


  8. - 10th Indy - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:13 am:

    How terribly sad. Will keep his family, the engineer, crew and thier families in my prayers along with Phil.


  9. - Amalia - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:26 am:

    Rich, this pattern was exactly what came to mind when I heard the horrible news on the radio. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Sympathies especially to the entire Metra family, and specifically because of the way he chose to end his life. Absolutely chilling and quite disturbing.

    the system is becoming a suicide machine. Please, some health official step up and talk about the human cost of corruption.


  10. - Wumpus - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:39 am:

    My prayers for the train ..driver..pilot..engineer?

    Suicide is selfish. He didn’t even think of the trauma he’d cause the Metra guy at the controls


  11. - wonder boy - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 11:55 am:

    IRONY? There are many ways to take your life, this desperate last act of his life was to take Metra with him? Me? I’m praying for the train engineer.


  12. - Vibes - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:01 pm:

    His family and Metra are in my prayers. He was a very, very quirky guy — but he more than anyone else built Metra, the good, the bad, and the technologically archaic. But never in a million years would I have expected this. So sad.


  13. - Bring Back Boone's - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:03 pm:

    Does anyone else find it incredibly ironic that it was a Metra train?


  14. - Jim - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    Sympathies to all involved, but as far as the grave-digging we don’t know if all the facts will ever come out. It seems the Michael Scott investigation is over with many unanswered questions.


  15. - South of Sherman - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:09 pm:

    BBB — I was just thinking that. It’s poetic, in a very perverse sort of way.


  16. - Bring Back Boone's - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:11 pm:

    Couldn’t agree more


  17. - DuPage Dave - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    His passing does not resolve the financial issues that came to light recently. What are the fiscal controls at Metra that allow an executive to pay himself for as-yet-unearned vacation time? Don’t they have a controller or someone who ought to have prevented this?


  18. - Secret Square - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:34 pm:

    If you have a sensitive stomach I’d strongly suggest avoiding the Trib website for the time being due to its (IMO unneccesarily) graphic, close-in overhead shot of the scene. The Sun-Times also has a lot of utterly tasteless and appalling reader comments posted under its story. Way to go media folks. My sympathies to the family, Metra, and anyone else impacted by this.


  19. - KeepSmiling - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 12:50 pm:

    This is so sad, I can’t stand it. I’m so sorry for Phil Pagano’s family and friends, Bill Tupper and the other Metra staff members, the Metra Board, and for Phil — who had a big heart and was incredibly effective as Metra’s Executive Director. His career and life should not have ended this way. It’s just so sad.


  20. - cassandra - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:06 pm:

    I’m sorry about the human tragedy but I agree with
    DuPage Dan, always assuming the allegations were true, of course. Where were the fiscal controls.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of officials in a lot of different types of workplaces are tempted to break the rules. For amazingly small amounts, too. I’ll pay it back, they say to themselves, or, I’ll fix it before anybody notices. Crazy thinking, that doesn’t usually lead to suicide. It’s also common human weakness and one of the many advantages to good controls is to prevent good people from doing something stupid.

    And of course, sympathies to the Metra engineer.
    Even though they are blameless in these situations, I’m sure it tears them up.


  21. - cassandra - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:07 pm:

    Sorry, I mean, DuPage Dave.


  22. - jerry 101 - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:28 pm:

    @ Cassandra

    As an auditor, I can tell you that, whether or not fiscal controls were there for Joe Schmo, it’s a different story for top management. Top management always has the power to override controls. All it takes is Pagano walking up to a person in payroll and telling them to print him an extra paycheck for however much money. A payroll clerk isn’t going to say no to the boss and lose his/her job.

    I would ask where was the Board when it came to exercising their fiduciary duty to oversee how Metra was spending its money. There are a lot of other questions that should be asked as well, but out of respect, I’ll keep my silence.

    My condolences and prayers to Mr. Pagano’s family, and my heartfelt prayers to the driver and other people directly affected by his death.


  23. - Responsa - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:34 pm:

    Metra put out a very nice piece about how the Metra organization is in mourning and how much Pagano cared about Metra, its employees and the customers it serves. Putting aside completely any of the allegations of financial irregularities, it is hard to reconcile the cruel way he dragged Metra, its employees, and passengers into the picture when he apparently chose to end his life this morning–thus further devastating both his biological family and his Metra family.


  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:37 pm:

    I met Pagano a few years ago and have had several dealings with his agency. Thought he was a good guy…but, as always there is so much that we don’t know in these type of affairs. As others have expressed, deepest sympathies to those most affected by this tragic death.

    This also hits home for me because my mom tried to do a similar thing in a similar way a long time ago, but she miraculously survived. At the same location as the recent tragic incident with Ms. Lunn. Fortunately, there were many more Mother’s Days after that dark period.


  25. - dupage progressive - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:37 pm:

    So sad. Prayers for him & his family & the train crew. How awful & yes, an ironic story. And the idea that sometimes circumstances of death often reflect details of how they lived, comes to mind. Jeez. Eerie.


  26. - A.B. - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:39 pm:

    What a horrible situation. My deepest condolences to his friends and family as they work through this tragedy.


  27. - Personickety - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:41 pm:

    Responsa you are right on target.


  28. - Bubs - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    The train was his choice, not an irony. Who can really know, but I suspect it was some sort of gesture towards METRA and the Board that was about to terminate his career.

    Why do they choose suicide? Perhaps a combination of knowing that the Feds rarely fail to get their man; that repeated public humiliation in the press is certain; that they would be forced to talk eventually, and that by taking secrets to the grave their families might find support after they are gone, which would not be likely once they talked, and pleaded guilty.


  29. - Naperville - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 1:49 pm:

    Its sad when people do reach this conclusion, to end it all. Adding another point to this however is that of the people mentioned by Rich, I happened to know two very well. Although, I wish not to mention their names, I do believe that the mental health from publicly mentioned as a possible felon makes these people do what they do. Whatever, the Metra Director was alleged to have done or didn’t do, the public perception is that he was already convicted of public opinion. I truly believe that is what leads these people to do what they do. Only a court of law convicts people, not print media or anything else. If this individual was even found not guilty, is already was by the public because of the current state of affairs in Illinois. This is why the pattern is occurring today and if these people were thrown overboard by “higher ups” due to the mere fact that they choose to work within a system that has gone corrupt, is truly sad. God Rest his Soul!


  30. - Cousin Ralph - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:01 pm:

    My prayers for the family. When do reasonable minds start to conclude that these events are no longer coincidence. The “Chicago Way” exacts a huge toll, maybe its time to opt for a different path.


  31. - dupage dan - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:11 pm:

    I find it hard to have sympathy for those who choose such a path. Since his family likely didn’t choose it with him I do feel for them. I have read about how those at the switch on trains are affected by such an action. It is hard to think that Pagano didn’t know about that as well, as long a time as he had at that agency. That is what angers me the most. Such disregard for someone else is not inexcusable.


  32. - Siriusly - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:27 pm:

    Cousin Ralph
    I’m sure you wanted “chicago way” to mean self enriching public corruption. Right?
    Too many of us work in the public service and political fields and are honest ethical and hard working. Don’t paint me with that brush please.


  33. - zatoichi - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:36 pm:

    Been down the same road in the past. Your thinking gets so odd nothing makes sense. You can put on a great front, but your brain is just going 100 mph and it just gets overwhelming. Impulsive or long planned is irrelevant. No matter what the cause/reason, it gets very hard to pull yourself back in line to what most people think is the ’sensible solution’. Feel sad for the family, co-workers, and the people directly involved at the scene.


  34. - MrJM - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:40 pm:

    Killing yourself is one thing, killing yourself in a manner that traumatizes an entire train crew of Metra employees is selfish and cowardly.

    [The remainder of profane and derogatory comments have been self-censored in the interests of keeping it “toned down.”]

    – MrJM


  35. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 2:55 pm:

    The train was his choice, not an irony

    I agree, if this was indeed a suicide as it appears. If he had inadvertently fell off the platform while waiting for the train that was to take him to the meeting, THAT would have been irony.

    Maybe we will get more insight as to why, and the method. But regardless of whether a note was left or not, the result and the impact on others is still about the same.


  36. - wordslinger - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 3:04 pm:

    Bubs, you are way out of line with your speculation about “taking secrets to the grave” and more.

    It’s a hot story, no doubt, but put a lid on your forecasts of what was going to happen,. unless you have something. Have some respect; there’s plenty of time to sort it out now.


  37. - Western Illinois - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 3:20 pm:

    BBC World News just had this on (580 WILL)
    We are not Greece economically but we are sure not looking good….


  38. - Rich Miller - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 3:21 pm:

    Well, no kidding we don’t look good. But to say we’re another Greece is just plain ludicrous.


  39. - Anonymous - Friday, May 7, 10 @ 7:08 pm:

    From the Trib:

    “(McHenry Co. Sheriff) Nygren said the engineer spotted Pagano about five to 10 seconds before impact. Pagano was standing in the middle of the tracks, facing the front of train, and the engineer braked but could not stop in time.

    “The engineer looked right into the eyes of the man,” Nygren said.”

    I’m sure those 5 or 10 seconds felt like an eternity to the engineer. I suspect as do DuPageDan and others that Pagano, given his long and close connection to Metra, knew exactly what he was doing. Perhaps he thought of it as some final grand act of defiance. My sympathies to the train crew.


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