The Evanston Board of Ethics voted unanimously Tuesday night to dismiss all counts of an ethics complaint filed against Alderman Mark Tendam based on both a lack of evidence and jurisdiction.

Alderman Tendam’s attorney Michael Dorf listens as Ethics Board member Mark Sheldon speaks during the hearing.

The Evanston Board of Ethics voted unanimously Tuesday night to dismiss all counts of an ethics complaint filed against Alderman Mark Tendam based on both a lack of evidence and jurisdiction.

The hearing, which lasted less than an hour, featured some heated discussion from Tendam’s attorney, Michael C. Dorf, and the two residents who filed the complaint, Nick Agnew and Clare Delgado, prompting the board’s Chairman, Mark Sheldon, to ask that both parties refrain from exchanging remarks.

Both Dorf and Delgado also criticized the ethics hearing process; Dorf claimed that the board, by holding the hearing, had participated in smearing his client, while Delgado complained about a lack of information as to how she and Agnew were to navigate the complaint process.

The complaint, filed in July, asked that the board investigate a $1,000 campaign contribution Tendam received from billionaire investor and Hyatt Hotel heir Col. James N. Pritzker.

Specifically, the complaint asked that the board determine whether acceptance of the donation violated the gift ban provision of Evanston’s Code of Ethics, whether Tendam complied with Illinois regulations when reporting the contribution, if receipt of the donation is grounds for the alderman to recuse himself from discussions pertaining to Pritzker’s applications for zoning relief and that the board appeal any City Council decision involving Pritzker on the basis of potential ethics violations.

Alderman Tendam sits with his husband,  Neal Moglin, as his attorney, Michael Dorf, argues the case.

Board member Scott Turner asked Delgado if she or Agnew had any proof that receipt of the donation was unlawful, and she replied that she did not.

“No one can ever actually prove an impropriety,” Delgado said, and added that the complaint was filed due to the appearance of impropriety.

But Turner said the gift ban under the city’s Code of Ethics includes an exception for legal campaign contributions. The board subsequently voted to dismiss that particular count.

As for the other issues in the complaint, Turner and the three other board members present at the hearing unanimously agreed, along with Deputy City Attorney Michelle Masoncup, that they had no jurisdiction on the matters.

The board, however, did agree to look into one issue outlined in the complaint, which asked that they amend the Code of Ethics to prevent any candidate for the office of mayor or city council from receiving campaign contributions from people or entities associated with pending zoning relief applications.

“This is something the board intends to take up in the coming years,” Sheldon said. He added that the timing of Delgado and Agnew’s complaint had made it even more clear to the board that it was an issue that should be discussed.

Still, he said, any amendment to the ethics code would have to be voted on by the City Council.

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  1. Dismissed

    So glad this nonsense is over. It always seemed like a mean spirited attempt to smear a good man's reputation.

    1. Tendam’s reputation is righteously tarnished

      After he won the 6th Ward Alderman election, Mark Tendam received and accepted a campaign donation from billionnaire Pritzker who at the time was trying to get a zoning change for his bed and breakfast and was negotiating with the city to buy the Hadley Clark mansion on Evanston's lakefront.

      It doesn't pass the smell test and Tendam's reputation is righteously tarnished. The Ethics Board really does need to amend that part of the Code of Ethics, and I hope it becomes a major issue in the next aldermanic elections.

      How come we haven't heard from Tendam about this? We did hear from his attorney and his partner, Neal Moglin. Why can't Tendam defend himself? 

      1. Attorney representation

        You're opposed to someone exercising their right to legal counsel?  Tendam obviously elected to utilize the expertise of an attorney to review the complaint, existing law, and maneuver the process (something that the complaintants themselves pouted was confusing).  If you are ever charged with a crime (not that this was a criminal offense), let's see if you decide to fly solo and represent yourself — I doubt you will.

  2. Amend code of ethics for campaigns= good idea

    Regardless if the charges were cleared, Tendam accepted donations from a person not living in his ward who needed Tendam's approval for zoning changes. It's just plain old fashioned shady Chicago-style politics.       I hope Evanston takes the steps forward after this case to change campaign financing laws to outlaw this sort of grey area ethics. No alderperson can accept money from a business owner up for re-zoning.  Thank you to Delgado and Agnew for taking the time to raise this issue.  

    1. Tendham…reply to Jen

      You are 100% correct.   City employees cannot receive any gifts, gratuities, or donations  from anyone…..why would an alderman be exempt from this?   Read the City's policies, people!!!!!!!    

      1. because duing campaign season, alderman ARE exempt

        and thus Tendam can receive campaign money from Pritzker, who is up for zoning relief, a week AFTER tendam has already won the election.  Ethical according to city campaign policy- yes.   Truly ethical… ?????    Something to look at changing, that's all I"m sayin.

        1. What’s really unethical

          Then I guess nobody, individual or corporation, or whatever or whomever, should ever be allowed to make a campaign contribution to anybody at any time for any reason whatsoever. 

          Why then should individual NIMBY's be allowed to make contributions to candidates they know will support their agenda?  Because the NIMBY claims to speak for the people?  That's laughable. 

          Whats really unethical is when one group with a certain agenda can support their candidates and consider that completely ethical and then turn around and label someone from the other side as being unethical when they support a candidate with an open or opposing viewpoint.  

          NIMBY behavior, their willingness to misrepresent issues, defame, harass, accuse and accost others is what is really unethical.

          1. buy the vote

            Need a zoning change?  BUy an alderman during campaign season. It is the chicago way after all, and it's right here in our backyards.    

          2. Corporations are people, my friend

            Jen, I don't understand your objections to having money in politics.  Given your numerous pro-"capitalist" postings in the past, why can't we let the "Free Market", which is always right, guide our elections?

            The five right-wing "Justices" of the US Supreme Court have ruled that political contributions are "free speech", so why shouldn't donors be able to have as much free speech as they want? 

            And Chicago's corruption could be due to the fact that aldermen have so much power down there to keep things out of their wards.  As any true Libertarian knows, the way to end corruption is to take power away from the government.  If people didn't have to obtain permits and waivers and zoning changes from the government, they would have no incentive to bribe their aldermen.


          3. Let’s be polite

            Pretty inflamatory Jen.   Run for office.  If you don't please refrain.  There is no link to the campaign contribution and the vote.   Isn't this the same Col Pritzker who "lost" in the Harley Clarke Mansion vote?  How did Tendam vote there?  Oh, that's right against the project.

            Also, as it was mentioned and discussed prior to your vitriol, what stops others from giving money to aldermen outside their district who support projects that benefit them, and are maintaining the status quo?  Nothing.

            Please stick to the facts, not to the facts as you intrepret them.

            I used to enjoy reading your intelligent and thought provoking posts, not anymore.

          4. personal insult not intended, apology

            First off, Neal, if this came across as personally insulting to Mr. Tendam, then I do apologize.  I re-read what I wrote and it was a bit fiery, even for me  🙂       Tendam clearly voted with his constituents on the Clarke deal, and that did not go unnoticed.      Furthermore, Tendam's name was cleared by the ethics committee as he followed all standing rules.                                                                                                                                                                 Moving beyond this particular issue, I think it gives the community a spring board to discuss campaign finance reform.  I do not know if there is a way to keep money out of buying the vote.    Clearly at the national level, this is a huge problem.    Personally, I think that it's a conflict of interest to be allowed to receive funding from a business that is up for zoning changes.  YOu  bring up a good point though that it's difficult to control others from giving money to aldermen outside their ward who benefit maintaining the status quo.  And here we are, back at square one with money controlling the politics.    I think it's worth discussing as a community. Tendam's name is cleared, but it is still a relevant discussion.  Perhaps the issue might be as simple as having the papers list all contributors/amounts over $1,000 to each campaign prior to election time, so that the electorate  could judge for themselves if there is a conflict of interest as they are voting.                                                                                                                                                                    To  my anonymous friend  below who likes to bring up my respect for free markets,  what would you propose an alternative to a free market?    As for Chicago politicians, we have laws that many of them just don't choose to obey.   I would not advocate for having no zoning or laws of any kind.  In order for people to invest their money or trade within an open market, the government needs to enforce property rights, as property rights form the basis of any free market society.  The problem we face today is   that government officials (speaking in broad terms)  make the property rights of some more important than the property rights of others.  A few examples- insider trading by congressmen, Monsanto Protection Act,  bailing out the big banks as they fail instead of letting them go bankrupt   like a non-connected bank would.                                                                                                                                                                    How to solve all these issues?  I would suggest starting by having newspapers that cover issues like this in depth, so that the electorate can judge for themselves.   One of the reasons I appreciate this website so much is that Bill Smith brings the information.  On the National news level, we get mostly drivel from both the left and the right to distract the people. As an aside, a college friend of mine works in DC for the Associated Press.    She  frequently is at the White House in conferences.  I asked her if she can ask anything she wants. She told me that the AP has questions, pre-approved from the White House (both left and right). Reporters can ask what they want, but if you ask something that isn't on the list, you are not invited back to the White House, essentially ending your career.  Reporters without borders rated the US as 32nd in the world in terms of freedom of the press.     Assange, Manning, Snowden-  Why is it that the US government has to keep so many secrets from the people?   With power, there is always increased risk of corruption. Therefore, an informed and involved electorate is essential to a free market.  Would  you say that the American  public is informed and involved?            To make our free market functional, I would also suggest that our interconnected  government-banking cartel needs to be overhauled, but that is a discussion for a different day.

          5. $1,000+

            Perhaps the issue might be as simple as having the papers list all contributors/amounts over $1,000 to each campaign prior to election time, so that the electorate  could judge for themselves if there is a conflict of interest as they are voting.

            Candidates are required to report all contributions, and contributions of $1,000 or more, made close to an election, need to be reported within 48 hours.  This is all public record and accessible via the Illinois State Board of Elections website.

          6. PErhaps something to give coverage to during election season…

            Wouldn't it be easy then for the newspapers online and/or in print or publicize this, either by printing the amounts, or by notifying people where to find the information prior to elections?     Most people will probably not go hunting for records, but if the records are made more accessible via local paper coverage, it might spark some interesting discussions.   To Bill Smith- perhaps something for next election to cover?                                     Even though the various Tendam supporters are angered that his campaign contributions were challeged, I think it's wonderful that citizens in this town are following what is going on and questioning.

          7. Campaign contribution reports

            Hi Jen,

            You can find all the state campaign finance disclosure records online here.

            Evanston Now periodically does stories on campaign contributions and spending as you can see here, here and here.


          8. Thanks

            Thanks Bill. The $15K for a seat article is very good.  Please keep up the good work.  This site is very helpful. 

          9. Have you read the Citizen’s United opinion?

            The SCOTUS has ruled that "corporations are people" and "money is free speech." People, corporations and your wealthy neighbor can contribute whatever they please on behalf of a third party organization that supports a platform. So if Citizens to Sell Harley Clarke runs a campaign to support candidates who agree with them, you can't find out who they are or what they contribute. One of the worst decisions in SCOTUS history, in my opinion, but it's the law. Even in Evanston.

          10. Questioning authority is not vitriolic unless you’re in power

            Hey Neal,

            6th Ward Alderman Mark Tendam voted to approve Col. Pritzker's zoning change request for his bed and breakfast after Tendam had received Pritzker's campaign donation (after alderman election was over).  There was not a zoning change issue with Pritzker's low ball bid to buy the Harley Clarke mansion.

            It is my theory that because the news about Pritzker's campaign donation to Tendam occured before the Harley Clarke mansion vote, and with the strong opposition to the lakefront mansion sale, Tendam wised up and voted against it, knowing there were not enough votes for it to pass. I say this because Tendam did not voice strong opposition to Pritzker's low offer.

            In any event, Jen's comments were not vitriolic; they were truthful and skeptical. The ethics code should be amended to prohibit those involved in a pending zoning change from giving campaign donations to alderman. Wouldn't Tendam agree? Well, we don't know because we have not heard from Tendam on this issue. Tendam has posted on this board. Why does he hide behind his attorney and his attorney-parnter, Neal Moglin?

            Pritzker is not only from one of the wealthiest families in America but he is politically connected. His sis was just appointed U.S. Commerce Secretary. 

            Tendam is part of the political establishment. He and his partner, Neal Moglin, held a fundraiser at their home for Daniel Biss. And Jan Schakowsky and the entire City Council attended their Jewish wedding (gay marriage is still illegal in Illinois). Members of the Democratic party of Evanston and other Obama supporters met at Tendam's home to ready to march in Evanston's parade.

            Kudos to Nick Agnew and Claire Kelly for standing up to the man.

          11. Buy the vote

            Suggest as someone said above. You need to check all the alderman and Mayors campaign contributions and who gaave them Will you point out each and everyone that voted to approve  NEW  resturant/liquor license Also sidewalk cafe. And lets not changeing zoning on building in there wards.  Plus residents needed zoning variences for projects on there home.

      2. Donations vs contributions

        You are 100% incorrect. 

        There is a clear difference between gifts and campaign contributions.

        Candidates are clearly allowed to received campaign contributions.  However, they cannot use these funds for their personal benefit.  It would be illegal for an alderman or congressman to use campaign contributions to build a swimming pool in his back yard, or go on vacation in Hawaii.  

        Using contributions for campaign purposes is entirely different.

        This is why this 'ethics' complaint was completely without merit.    The mudslingers are either ignorant, or deliberately misleading people, about the difference between gifts and political contributions.

        I hope that Tendam has learned something from this experience.  Winston Churchill said,  "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."    Having been bitten by the NIMBY crocodile, I hope that Tendam will stop trying to be nice to them.  They are ruthless, vicious, and completely dishonest – and they will turn on anyone who doesn't follow their strict NIMBY party line.  

  3. Some ideas for new campaign law

    The public would be served if any donation HAS TO be made anonymously.  I.e. you can contribute what you want but you can never reveal that you made the contribution—either to the candidate or public/private notice. E.g. you go to the bank and get a check made out to the candidate but your name does not appear in anything connected to the check.  IF you reveal the contribution the money would have to be refunded.  If the candidate or anyone finds out who made the contribution the money is refunded.

    This done from local to federal would prevent influence peddling, prevent political payoffs for campaiign donations, etc..

    This should be do able and reduce corruption.

    A further idea to apply from state to federal offices, would be for a candidate to be elected as they are now but after the election they participate in a drawing to see where they serve. E.g. you are elected to the House from Evanston or Senate from Illinois.  After the election you take part in a drawing and go to the House as a representative from Atlanta GA or Senator from Mississipi.   That should eliminate playing to your voters or favor to your group of voters or supporting 'pork' projects since supporting payments to farmers for not growing crops in Illinois may not make you popular when you serve New York city or supporting ship buillding in Conn. won't be very popular with your next voters in rural Iowa.   Maybe make the House terms four years and leave the Senate term as is. 

    Shifting wards might also work in Evanston—even if you don't live in your new ward.

  4. apology is needed

    An apology is needed because even though Agnew and Delgado "aren't attorneys" as they mentioned several times during the meeting Tuesday evening, they didn't research the most common points in their argument. They didn't offer evidence, instead they just stood up, claimed the alderman was unethical and that the burden was on the ethics board to research the matter.

    Also, the city deputy attorney Michelle Masoncup  was supposed to research the charges to see if they even were merited to bring to the Ethics board  and I didn't hear at anytime during the meeting  about the report. I have doubts about her performance as a deputy attorney representing the city based on this performance.

    I also question why Judy Fiske was present, she clearly wasn't there to support Alderman Tendam.

    I do agree that there does need to be campaign reform, but this is not the way to go about it.

      I am in the minority in believing that the mansion should been sold and I commend the Colonel for investing his money on an old mansions and finding a new and creative use for the mansions. I thought from the beginning that it was a great idea and I hope he is able to purchase other mansions to accomplish his vision.





    1. One degree of separation

      "I also question why Judy Fiske was present, she clearly wasn't there to support Alderman Tendam."

      I didn't know this.   

      I'm not surprised.  She is like the Kevin Bacon of NIMBYness…..but usually it only takes one degree of separation to connect a NIMBY to her.

      Fiske seems to like frivolous lawsuits, whether it is to get her opponent off of the ballot, or to stop Northwestern students from voting….she also was opposed to the City coming to an agreement with NU about the zoning dispute, because she wanted the City to keep fighting the matter in court.

  5. Need to find out if any of

    Need to find out if any of the owners of new bars in Evanston gave donations to the Mayor or Alderman

  6. Ethics complaint filing

    You can knowingly file a complaint with no evidence and still accomplish your mission.

  7. Nothing unethical here

    So how is it that nimbys can ethically give money to an alderperson expecting that alderperson to protect their financially grounded viewpoint?  In this situation the viewpoiint being that the mansion sale would be detrimental to their homes value and therefore the sale should be blocked.   

    That was one specific point expressed by several people opposed t this particular mansion sale proposal. Nimbys give money to nimby alderwomen to protect their perceived personal financial interest all the time, why is that not unethical?    

    People give campagin contributions to candidates who support their viewpoints. And lets not lie to ourselves, those viewpoints have much to do with personal financial stakes. This applies to everybody, period. 

    And who seriously thinks that campaign finance reform will stop corporations, groups or any individual from petitioning politicians at every level?  Reform will simply drive influence underground so deep it will never become transparent.  That reform chant is a chimera slaying delusion.    

  8. Mr. Tendam has proven again

    Mr. Tendam has proven again that his allegiance lies with the business. Our condo is located at 2934 Central street. This Monday we had new parking signs installed on Hurd street in front of our building. Effective immediately, we can no longer park in front of our house for longer than two hours during the daytime.

    Our condominium residents need long-term street parking because:

    1. The number of underground parking spots is less than the number of vehicles owned by the residents.

    2. The residents need a parking option for their visitors.

    3. Many of us have family who visit from out of town and need a place to park.

    4. Not all types of vehicles can enter the narrow steeply curved entrance to the underground garage.

    5. Street parking is needed when entering garage is not feasible for other reasons, such as our garage cleaning days, garage or garage door maintenance, buildup of ice on the entrance ramp in the winter, and other similar situations.

    And that’s not to mention potential negative effect on our housing values due to higher traffic and lack of street parking.

    With the part of Hurd street south of our back alley being off-limits to our condominium residents (roughly a year ago, it was designated as a parking-by-permit single-family house owners’ private playground), the only street parking available for our condominium residents was the part of Hurd street between Central street and the back alley, immediately in front of our condominium. With the September 23’s introduction of the two-hour limit here, the residents are left with no long-term street parking.

    Along with the residents, nearby business owners—such as the real estate agency in our building and the tech company on Central—who need day-time parking for their employees, lose this option as well. The only one who gains from the change is the owner of Robert Gold’s hair salon, who now gets additional parking on the street and, as a result—more customer traffic. That is despite the fact that Robert Gold’s salon has its own off-street parking and that metered parking is also available for patrons of the salon.
    I have presented all of the above arguments to the 6th Ward alderman Mark Tendam whose office had submitted the request on behalf of Robert Gold salon to impose parking limitation in front of our condominium. Mr. Tendam’s response was that “we” needed to accommodate the needs of the business.
    Mr. Tendam could at least try to pretend like he cared about our residents’ concerns. He could at least consider a compromise. Instead the conversation went as follows:

    Me: Mr. Tendam, I have described to you all the negative consequences this parking change will have on our condo residents. Don’t you think these concerns have merit?

    Tendam: Well, we need to take a balanced action to assist the growing business needs.

    Me: How about the residents’ needs? We were here first, after all.

    Tendam: You have off-street parking.

    Me: I have just explained to you in detail why the underground garage is not sufficient parking solution (I reiterate the five reasons above).

    Tendam: We need to accommodate business needs.

    Me: How about accommodating our needs?

    Tendam: You have off-street parking and there is street parking available in front of my house (2448 Lincolnwood Dr.).

    Me: Gold’s salon has off-street parking too, and the remote street parking of which you speak is equally available to their customers.

    Tendam: But they can have more parking for their customers now.

    Me: How about a compromise, say, impose a limit only on one side of the street, or make the exception for the district residents, which is a common practice everywhere in Evanston and Chicago?

    Tendam: But we need a balanced approach…

    Me: Exactly! Balanced means two-way, you on the other hand, advocate only the business’s side.

    Tendam: You have an option of taking it up with the Parking Committee. If you can prove that the limitation is causing hardship, they might revoke the change.

    Me: [Thinking: You mean the committee under your personal friend Mayor Tisdahl to whose campaign you made financial contributions?] Why does it have to be a hardship? Was Robert Gold experiencing hardship when he got his wish granted? And why can’t it be about a decent living standard, which is the reason why we chose to live and pay our taxes right here?

    Tendam: …

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