A proposed ordinance that would make city council members subject to Evanston’s anti-harassment policy was approved by the council’s Rules Committee Monday night.
The vote came after Ald. Devon Reid (8th) raised questions about whether the ordinance was wise, given that harassment based on protected classes can already be prosecuted as a felony under state law.
Assistant City Attorney Alexandra Ruggie explained that creating the ordinance violation wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of charges being brought under the state law.
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) added, “Not everyone wants to bring a case it if means the penalty is a felony and they’d have to go to court over it.”
“This would be heard before our ethics board, ” Wynne said. “It provides an intermediate level of sanction that would be available to someone who brought a grievance.”
Reid said he wasn’t opposed to the ordinance, but said it could create “a sense of almost coercion of making people feel they have to go through this system.”
But Ruggie responded that since the ordinance violation would be a civil rather than a criminal matter, there would not be a double-jeopardy issue to have both state charges and an ordinance violation over the same matter.
With only six of the committee’s 10 members present, the measure was advanced to the full City Council on a voice vote with no negative votes cast.