If Robin Rue wins election next month as Evanston's new 5th Ward alderman, it could require some changes to keep her on the right side of federal conflict of interest regulations.
Rue, also known as Robin Simmons, runs the Sunshine Enterprises training program for budding entrepreneurs in Evanston -- which is currently funded through Community Development Block Grant money the city receives from the federal government.
Under terms of that program, the city's contract with Sunshine prohibits any "member of the governing body of the city" from having any "direct or indirect interest" in the contract, as provided under federal regulations at 24 CFR Part 570.611.
Those regulations do provide a variety of potential options for waiving the rules, depending on individual circumstances.
Asked about the issue, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston Now "The City would review this matter should Ms. Simmons be elected to the City Council."
Rue said she's aware of the issue and understands that at minimum she would have to recuse herself from all Council votes and decisions relating to Sunshine Enterprises. That's a step that other aldermen have taken before. For example, former alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who worked for Northwestern University, recused herself from voting on NU-related issues.
In addition, Rue says, Sunshine has programs in other communities that she could be reassigned to, although she would prefer to continue to work in Evanston.
Rue says she works full-time for Sunshine teaching classes and administering the program.
Sunshine has gradually been reducing the financial support it receives from the city, she said, and hopes to further reduce its dependence on city assistance in the future.
In a separate issue, Rue's opponent in the April 4 runoff, Carolyn Murray, has raised questions about Rue's use of an office at 1900 Asbury Ave. as her campaign headquarters. The building is owned by former Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste and once had been his law office.
Murray claimed Rue was using money from the Sunshine Enterprises contract to rent the office and then also used it as her campaign headquarters.
However Bobkiewicz says the Sunshine agreement makes no provision for the city to cover the cost of office rent and that the city had no connection to the 1900 Asbury property.
Rue says she's paid the rent for the office from her own funds and is sharing the space with another local business. She says that since her campaign started she hasn't met with Sunshine Enterprises clients in that space.