An Evanston Board of Ethics hearing on a complaint filed against Alderman Mark Tendam was postponed Tuesday night after Tendam’s attorney said the board and city staff failed to follow the city code in scheduling the session.

The complaint, filed by Nick Agnew and Clare Delgado, asked the board to determine whether a $1,000 campaign contribution to Tendam from billionaire investor Col. J.N. Pritzker violated the city ethics code and to rewrite the code to bar contributions from people seeking zoning changes.

Tendam’s attorney, Michael C. Dorf, said the session was scheduled sooner than permitted under the city code.

Agnew and Delgado’s complaint was filed July 12. And, under the code, a person accused of violating it is supposed to be given at least 30 days to prepare a response before a public hearing is held by the board.

Dorf added that the city’s law department also sent him an e-mail saying the hearing had been scheduled instead for Aug. 20.

Deputy City Attorney Michelle Masoncup said Agnew and Delgado had requested the hearing be held sooner than that and the request was granted because “no one was there to object.”

Despite the procedural questions he raised, Dorf said he was ready to defend his client and move forward with the case.

But the board said time was needed to allow Agnew and Delgado a chance to review a motion Dorf presented and opted to reschedule the hearing for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, in Room 2402 of the Civic Center.

Tendam’s husband, Neal Moglin, said the complaint had already unjustly tainted Tendam’s reputation and would continue to do so if the hearing was delayed.

“What would have been fair and what would have been just would have been for us to be able to say tonight why this complaint collapses when you look at even one tenth of it,” he said.

“There is no basis. It is a mean-spirited political ploy and should not have ever been filed and does not deserve this committee’s time,” Moglin added.

Virginia Mann, a 6th Ward resident, also defended Tendam.

Mann said that though she sometimes opposes Tendam on issues, he is “one of the most honest and forthright people in city government anywhere.”

Agnew said he didn’t intend to mar Tendam’s image.

“This is not personal, it goes deeper into the city’s ethics code,” he said. Both Delgado and Agnew said their intent in filing the complaint was to establish a “strong and clear ethical code for Evanston.”

Still, Mann said the complaint had had a chilling effect and might dissuade residents who had previously considered running for public office from doing so.

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  1. Tendam’s legal bill

    Does Tendam have to pay for his own legal representation or does the City reimburse him? If not, can Citizens for Tendam estalish a Legal Defense Fund to off-set his legal costs?

    If Nick Agnew and Claire Delgado really care about helping to establish a "strong and clear ethical code for Evanston," it's a shame that in order to do so they are tarnishing the reputation of Mark Tendam who is nothing if not an upstanding, straight-forward person.

    I would think that if they wanted to truly establish a "strong and clear ethical code" for Evanston they could lobby to change what they feel is wrong with the current code or request that the Mayor appoint them to the Board so that they can try and make changes from within.

    Seems like there were other options to achieve their stated goal then to try and make a case that Tendam acted unethically, which, based on my understanding of the facts, seems unlikely.

  2. Facts are stubborn things…

    While it is certainly understandable that Mr. Agnew and Ms. Delgado now want to walk back the baseless allegations of impropriety that they have made against Alderman Tendam, the proper way to do so would be to withdraw their complaint and issue a public apology.

    On July 6, 2013 Mr. Agnew and Ms. Delgado sent a letter to the Mayor and the entire City Council accusing Alderman Tendam of unethical behavior and demanding that Alderman Tendam "recuse himself from any votes related in any way to J.N. Pritzker and/or Tawani Enterprises or Pritzker¹s partner/companion Dawn Overend." The letter further demanded that: "[I]f Mr. Tendam has already voted on matters concerning J.N. Pritzker, his company Tawani Enterprises or Pritzker¹s partner/companion Dawn Overend, such vote must be annulled immediately."

    Complainants then attended the July 8th City Council Meeting and publicly engaged in what the Chair of the Meeting called "Tendam bashing."  At that meeting Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew accused Alderman Tendam of having a conflict of interest, and violating "standard ethical protocol" and said that they were formally referring their allegations to the City's Board of Ethics.

    Making good on this threat, on July 15th, Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew filed a public "Ethics Violation Complaint" against Alderman Tendam.  In the Complaint, Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew accused Alderman Tendam of violating the gift ban provisions of the City's Code of Ethics along with State statutes governing the reporting of political contributions exceeding $1,000.  They then asked the Board to issue an order: (1) preventing Alderman Tendam from casting any future votes on "any city council decision involving Pritzker/Tawani Enterprises and (2) reversing "any city council decision involving Pritzker/Tawani Enterprises" that had already been made "on the basis of potential violations of the ethics code."

    Although the City Code requires the City Law Department to review all ethics complaints and issue an advisory report on the merits prior to the Board making its determination about whether to hear the matter, Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew went to the Ethics Board's regularly scheduled meeting the day after filing their complaint and publicly demanded a special, expedited hearing on their charges against Alderman Tendam for the purported purpose of "protecting the process" from Alderman Tendam's involvement.

    Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew took each of these public actions and made all of these public statements even though: (1) the laws of Illinois and the City of Evanston expressly state that it is neither a conflict of interest nor an improper gift for a candidate's committee to accept contributions from the candidates'
    supporters; and  (2) public records (available on-line) prove that the Tendam Re-election Campaign Committee reported the Pritzker donation in accordance with the time frame set forth in the Illinois Code.

    These very stubborn facts are impossible to reconcile with Mr. Agnew's after the fact claim that he and Ms. Delgado "didn't intend to mar Tendam's image."  Accusing a person of unethical behavior and illegal actiity is, on its face "damaging" and making such accusations without any factual or legal basis is, on its face, reprehensible. 

    To quote the Motion to Dismiss filed last night by Alderman Tendam:
    "Complainants have filed a frivolous and defamatory complaint against Alderman Mark Tendam, meant to chill free and open debate in the Evanston City Council."  They have "outrageously misstated facts to the great detriment of Alderman Tendam's good name and reputation" and have "ignored Illinois State Law and bedrock principles of basic public policy."  Most importantly, "they have used the City's ethics process to punish a public official with whom they disagree and influence Council voting on City business" impacting their neighborhood.

    Nobody has the right to make false accusations against another person.   Accusing a person of wrongdoing is a serious matter and doing so without any legal or factual basis cannot be tolerated. The fact that Complainants now contend that "'their intent in filing the complaint was to establish a 'strong and clear ethical code for Evanston' does not vidicate their behavior.  On the contrary it simply proves that Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew have been aware from the outset that their accusations were baseless.

    If Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew have any interest in reversing the harm they have done, they will withdraw their complaint and issue an apology to Alderman Tendam that is as unreserved and public as their baseless allegations have been.

  3. Bogus charges

    What really makes this whole thing stink is how the complainers want to both find 

    "determine whether a $1,000 campaign contribution to Tendam from billionaire investor Col. J.N. Pritzker violated the city ethics code and to rewrite the code to bar contributions from people seeking zoning changes"

    So it is clearly just an effort to harass Tendam.  We want the Ethics Board to find him guilty….and if he didn't violated any rules, let's just change the rules.  

    Perhaps we can also amend the US Constitution and its burdensome prohibitions against  ex-post facto laws and bills of attainder :

    "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law," 

     Article I, Section 10, clause 1

  4. In defense of Nick and Clare

    Hopefully Mark Tendam can brush off the reactions from Clare and Nick. Without their activism, we would have hundreds of townhomes on the Kendall campus and medical waste fumes over our heads from the nearby hospital. Oh, I forget to mention the 57 room hotel idea on our parkland near Lighthouse beach running non- stop 24/365/7.  What would this city be like without their action?   

    1. John:  First up thanks for

      John:  First up thanks for actually identifying yourself in your posts.  If we don't agree on anything else, we seem to share the view that identifying oneself in on-line blogs is a good habit to get into (particularly where there is a personal connection between the commentator and the subject matter involved).  I think most people know that I am Alderman Tendam's husband and while I could be wrong, I think that you are Nick Agnew's brother.

      And if you are Nick's brother then again, kudos to you for standing up for your family. That's another thing we agree is important to do.

      Where we disagree, obviously, is whether or not what Nick and Clare have done qualifies as political activism.  Political activism is fantastic but it is not a blank check to "say anything and do anything" in support of a cause (however passionately one feels about it).  Accusing another person of wrongdoing without any basis in fact or law for doing so is not political activism, it is defamation, The fact that the accused person is a political figure provides no cover. 

      I'd ask you to put yourself in Alderman Tendam's shoes for a moment.  What if you were doing work on your home that was entirely within the bounds of the City's building and zoning codes.  You had all the proper permits, had paid all the required fees, you hired ontractors with appropriate credentials etc.  Now imagine that your next door neighbor is a political activist who believes that the building code and zoning code are not strict enough.  Would it be OK for that neighbor to accuse you of violating the building and zoning code and file a zoning grievance against you in the name of having the law changed?  And even if that person said (after the fact) that he or she  didn't intend to harm you, how would that help you deal with the damage to your reputation in the neighborhood that had already been done?  And what about your out of pocket costs? Unless you are a lawyer specializing in real estate and zoning matters, you would have had to hire a lawyer  to defend you against these baseless allegations. Who is really responsible for those costs?  You or the person that made the baseless claim against you?

      As I said to the Board of Ethics on Tuesday evening, this "say anything" approach to politics does real damage to people and needs to stop.  Thanks for your consideration.

    2. Brush off the reactions from Clare and Nick?

      Brush off Nick and Clare's 'reaction'?"   They have accused Alderman Tendam of violating the City's Ethics Code and State Statutes, and have filed a formal complaint against him.  A "brush-off" is hardly the seriousness with which one can take such charges when levied against them.  Alderman Tendam has bee forced to defend himself and clear his name as a result of the lack of consideration of the implications of this accusation – this not name calling but a FORMAL COMPLAINT.  While they obviously now regret making a false claim, the damage has been done and they have to accept responsibility for their actions.

      Nick and Clare may be fine people,  but the right thing to do is to issue a public apology for the deliberate, public actions that have harmed another person.  If they are everything you say, they will go all the way and withdraw their complaint and apologize to Alderman Tendam publicly.

    3. You call this a defense?

      Even if we agree with Clare and Nick's NIMBY activism, and consider their opposition to Kendall townhomes to be a good thing….

      How does that justify what they are doing to Tendam? Are they going to pay for his lawyer – not to mention the time wasted by the Ethics Board on this bogus charge?

      This also demonstrates a pattern of abuse of the courts and ethics boards by NIMBYs.  Whether it is trying to get Tivador off the ballot, or trying to get votes by Northwestern students disqualified, or phony ethics charges, the NIMBYs always resort to legal harassment when they can't achieve their agenda by democratic means.

      In the long run, Nick and Clare's behavior will weaken respect for ethics in Evanston. If the ethics board just becomes a vehicle for partisan politics, nobody will take it seriously. Like the Plan Commission, Preservation Commission or the various 'neighbors' groups, the Ethics Board will not be taken seriously . 

    4. I do wish you folks would

      I do wish you folks would tell the truth and get your facts straight. There were only 6 town homes on a street that is full of condos and rentals. But now we have fenced in land which has been sitting vacant for  more than five years (hundreds of town homes????)

      There was not one blade of parkland proposed for the boutique hotel  results is we could loose a landmark beautiful treasure cause no one can afford to restore it or keep it up.

      Oh yes thank you!!!!

      1. Anonymous on town homes and parkland

        Dear anonymous,

        The Harley-Clarke Mansion is Evanston parkland and the Kendall campus is currently vacant and now zoned for single family houses.  You're welcome!

  5. Not sure this is a frivolous issue

    Wow, campaign contribution issues.

    Essentially, aldermanic campaigns don't cost all that much. Let's say less than $10,000. That makes a $1,000 contribution quite significant. As a matter of comparison, would anyone be interested in a $100 million contribution to a presidential campaign? I sure would be. So I'm not sure this is a frivolous issue, as seems to be the predominant opinion here.

    I'm sure our City Council, city staff, and all city employees are fine, upstanding, and righteous citizens, but right or wrong, it just seems…a bit tainted.

    By the way, scrutiny comes with the territory. I appreciate that someone is checking these things.

  6. Nick’s brother

    Neal, I am one of Nick's supportive brothers and don't hold grudges against you or Mark.  I've seen enough legal gobbleegook and political posturing about this matter to go blind.  Hopefully we can meet sometime in a more neighboorly fashion. I'll stop and say hi sometime if you're out when I'm riding my bike by your house enroute to Lighthouse beach. 


  7. Public apology is called for

    I was present at the Ethics meeting on Tuesday evening and I was surprised that the charges were not dismissed outright. There were a couple of things that I learned from the meeting and one of them was that the City's legal department was supposed to prepare a report to see if the charges were warranted to bring against Alderman Tendam. There wasn't a report prepared for the Ethics Committee and Alderman Tendam had to prepare a defense in less than the thirty days required by the City of EVanston. Ms. Delgado and Mr. Agnew requested a special meeting of the Ethics Committee and somehow for all their knowledge about ethics, they thought that is was okay. They owe Alderman Tendam a very public apology and they should pay for his legal defense.

    I also respect the fact  that Virginia Mann ( a long-time activist)  had the courage to speak up at Tuesday's meeting and spoke in support of Alderman Tendam.

    I have had the great pleasure of knowing Alderman Mark Tendam for over ten years and he is the most honorable and ethical person I know.  Even though we don't always see eye to eye on things, he is respectful enough to listen to my opinions and I find him to be very knowledgable about a great deal of things going on in Evanston. He is in my opinion, one of the more progessive alderman and I wish we had more alderman/alderwoman like him.


    Jeanne Laseman

  8. I’m saving all these posts. So…

    come on folks.  Let the truth come out and stop the smoke screens.  I'm gagging!

    1. Thanks to agnew and Delgado

      I'm not going to comment on how the formal complaint was filed, as I don't know enough about this issue.

      However, I agree with Delgado and Agnew that this issue should go before the ethics board.   I understand that  campaign contributions are allowed, but from what I understand, the $1000 check was given/cashed(?) after Mr. Tendam already won the election.   

      Furthermore, we in Evanston often lament how the country needs campaign finance reform.  This case is a perfect place to begin this type of reform right here in our own town.

      Anne Rainey put Jane Grover's vote before the ethics board on the indoor sports issue because Grover's husband was a volunteer, not paid, ex-helper of a baseball association that wanted to build out a sport facility.  Surely, a financial contribution from a for-profit business to an alderman who held power to allow or disallow the contributor's business development should go before the ethics board. 

      If Tendam doesn't want to pay legal fees, he should return the money, not vote on issues related to Pritzker, or go without a lawyer.  What are all his supporters here trying to hide?  

      Thank you to Agnew and Delgado for doing this.     Tendam may be an entirely ethical man. Let him stand up and speak for himself then.  And let's use this opportunity to look at how campaigns are financed in this town.   


    2. Ethics

      Only problem, John, if the claim is false the damage is already done. And the people filing will walk away with a smile.

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