Embattled Metra chief Phil Pagano was killed Friday morning in an apparent suicide, hours after the Cook County State's Attorney announced a criminal investigation into his finances.
Pagano was killed by a Metra train in McHenry County. McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren told the Chicago Sun-Times that Pagano left a letter "indicating his intentions" before going onto the tracks near Crystal Lake just after 8 a.m.
Another source told the Chicago Tribune that Pagano's wallet was found on his body, "along with a copy of Metra's procedures on how to handle a service disruption after a suicide."
Pagano had been the executive director of Metra, the Chicago suburban rail service, for 20 years. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced alleging that Pagano gave himself an unauthorized $56,000 bonus.
Metra put Pagano on leave on April 29th, hiring a private lawyer with experience in government misconduct to look into the case. And investigations into Pagano and Metra stepped up this week. The FTA announced Tuesday that Metra would receive no further federal funding without additional scrutiny. On Wednesday Sen. Dick Durbin got involved, asking the Department of Transportation to investigate.
And Thursday, the Cook County State's Attorney announced that it would launch a criminal probe into what the Tribune called "possible financial irregularities."
Pagano was 60 years old. His death on Friday, tragic in its own right, would also mark a disturbing trend if it were a suicide -- in the last eight months, two other Chicago political figures under investigation for corruption have also killed themselves.
Former Blagojevich aide Christopher Kelly overdosed on painkillers last September after pleading guilty to charges of fraud. And in November, Chicago school board president Michael Scott shot himself after being subpoenaed in a grand jury investigation.
Metra's Board of Directors released a concise statement Friday morning:
It is with great sadness that we report the passing this morning of Philip A. Pagano.
Phil served this agency with distinction for many years. Today, we shall remember the good work he achieved with our board of directors and the men and women of Metra. He was dedicated to our passengers and he always considered the men and women of Metra his family and there is a tremendous sense of loss within the agency.
We shall remember him as a dedicated husband, father and grandfather who loved his family more than anyone. Our deepest sympathies as well as our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and all those who loved him.