Evanston’s Board of Ethics this week unanimously rejected as unsubstantiated claims filed against Mayor Steve Hagerty by City Clerk Devon Reid and local resident Misty Witenberg.

Board Chair Carrie Von Hoff said there “was no credible evidence that the mayor acted improperly.”

Reid and Witenberg had claimed that Hagerty had violated the city’s ethics code by launching an investigation into accusations Reid had harassed three city employees.

The board found that Hagerty had not been involved in the decision to launch the investigation, that instead it had appropriately been begun by the head of the city’s human resources division and the city manager.

Reid and Witenberg made various claims about how the investigation was conducted, all of which the board determined were unsubstantiated.

During the investigation into the harassment complaints against the clerk, the board reported, the outside law firm retained by the city said “it had uncovered possible criminal conduct, specifically that Clerk Reid removed executive session recordings off premise and illegally eavesdropped on elected officials and others.”

The board found there was no credible evidence that “Mayor Hagerty was the decision maker who determined whether or not this letter was sent” to the state’s attorney’s office.

The board found that the mayor had sent a letter to Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart seeking an investigation into leaked executive packet materials from the July 8, 2019, City Council meeting, but said Reid was not among the persons who would have been the subject of that investigation.

The board also determined that Hagerty was not involved in the reassignment of a deputy clerk from Reid’s staff, which was made to protect the deputy clerk, who had made a human resources complaint against Reid, from retaliation and further harassment.

And it concluded the the City Council, not the mayor, had directed the clerk to cease and desist from using threats and retaliation against the city’s then corporation counsel.

The board also found that “there is no evidence that Clerk Reid was singled out for different or special treatment because of his race, gender, sexual orientation or other improper motive.”

“Rather,” the board says, “accusations against Clerk Reid we handled differently because of his position, his status as an elected official and the serious and sensitive nature of the allegations against him. This does not constitute unlawful retaliation.”

Clerk Reid has announced plans to run for 8th Ward alderman in next spring’s election, although he is facing unpaid fines for failing to file reports from his campaign for clerk that, if unresolved, will bar him from the ballot.

Witenberg had formed a campaign committee this fall to run for city clerk next spring. But she sent an email to the state board of elections on Oct. 28 asking to withdraw the statement of organization for her committee.

Hagerty has announced that he is not planning to run for reelection as mayor.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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