Evanston’s Board of Ethics late Wednesday again rejected complaints filed by an unsuccessful candidate against the winner of last year’s 5th Ward aldermanic election.

The complaints filed by Misty Witenberg against Alderman Robin Rue Simmons had been revived by the board this summer over procedural issues after being rejected by the board in June.

Misty Witenberg.

Before being elected alderman, Rue Simmons as a member of a city advisory board had advocated in favor of the city contracting with Sunshine Enterprises to operate an entrepreneurship training program in the city, a program Rue Simmons was later hired by Sunshine to run.

In May 2017 the Board of Ethics concluded that while Rue Simmons’ action then created an appearance of conflict, there was no actual conflict of interest.

After she was elected alderman, Rue Simmons recused herself from a council vote authorizing payment to Sunshine under the contract, an action the board in June determined was appropriate.

Sunshine continues to operate its program in Evanston but no longer receives funds from the city. Rue Simmons continues to work for Sunshine but on a similar program it operates in Chicago.

Last year, in developing a program of small city grants to startup businesses, the aldermen, including Rue Simmons, approved guidelines to qualify for those grants that included completing the Sunshine program or a smilarly-structured business education program.

Ethics board member Karena Bierman said Wednesday her personal instinct would be to “run fleeing from this stuff” and not vote on such an issue, but she didn’t believe that the ethics code should require an alderman’s recusal in such situations because there was no actual conflict of interest.

(For anyone interested, Dan Coyne has posted a video of the nearly three-hour-long board meeting here.)

Related stories

Ethics board agrees … to meet again (9/26/18)

Ethics board dismisses complaint against alderman (6/20/18)

Ethics board dismisses most of Witenberg complaint (3/21/18)

Board: ‘Appearance’ but no actual ethics violation by Rue (5/4/17)

Ethics panel rejects three claims (4/19/17)

Ethics board gets another election complaint (4/11/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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