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As members of Evanston’s Board of Ethics Tuesday night considered possible last-minute changes to a new ethics code scheduled for a final City Council vote next Monday, assistant city attorney Hugh DuBose told them many similar communities don’t even have an ethics board.

DuBose said that in the process of looking for models that Evanston could follow in its revamp to the ethics code he discovered that communities including Naperville, Elgin, Highland Park and Champaign don’t have a Board of Ethics.

In Aurora, he added, ethics issues are handled by the City Council. In Joliet the mayor and council act as an appeals panel. In Skokie the village manager investigates complaints and can impose punishments.

Springfield, he said, eliminated its ethics panel in 2016 and now the city council there hears ethics cases and makes final decisions.

Those examples cast doubt on an argument made to the board by Misty Witenberg that state law would bar the City Council from making the final decision on ethics complaints, supposedly because of the legislative role state law assigns to City Councils in communities like Evanston with a Council-Manager form of government.

In the end Witenberg opted to withdraw the complaint she had filed with the board over provisions of the new draft ordinance, and the board canceled a scheduled executive session to debate whether it had jurisdiction over that complaint.

The board also voted to issue its formal findings and order dismissing a complaint filed by Trisha Connolly and Albert Gibbs objecting to comments made by Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, at a City Council meeting in July. The board had initially voted to dismiss the complaint after a hearing last month.

Tuesday action came only after board members said that despite finding no ethics violation they were upset by Braithwaite’s remarks.

Board member L.J. Ellul said she hoped Braithwaite “would spend some time at his church that he purported to attend” whose members stood up for him at the hearing “and think about his behavior and how it had impact on residents of the city.” 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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