Evanston’s Special Ethics Counsel has concluded that two council members did not violate the city’s ethics code when they cast votes in favor of the special use request from Connections for the Homeless to continue to operate the Margarita Inn as a homeless shelter.
Brooke D. Lenneman, of Elrod Friedman LLP, in determination letters issued Monday, said that neither Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) nor Ald. Devon Reid (8th) had “a direct financial interest in, or any contract with, Connections for the Homeless” and that neither one stands “to reap a personal benefit or advantage from the approval of the special use permit.”
More than a dozen residents opposed to the homeless shelter project had filed ethics complaints against the two council members.
Revelle had disclosed that she has been a donor to Connections and supports their programs, but Lenneman said that the provision of the city’s ethics code that requires “impartiality” applies only to city employees and specifically excludes elected officials.
Lenneman said that in November 2022 Connections “provided assistance, through its eviction-prevention program,” to Reid “in the form of a monetary payment” to his then-landlord, but that he was evicted from the apartment in January.
The vote on Connections’ special use request did not occur until May 8 this year.
Lenneman added that conflict of interest laws “are generally established to prevent self-dealing and the conveyance of pecuniary or other tangible beneficial interests to an elected official who is in a position to use their power to obtain financial or other concrete personal advantage.”
Lenneman’s decision closes the ethics inquiry and means the complaints will not be heard by the city’s Board of Ethics.
In a statement after the ethics counsel’s reports were issued, Reid said, “I am here to serve the community with integrity and impartiality.”
“These accusations,” Reid added, “while disheartening, only strengthen my resolve to continue fighting for a more inclusive, prosperous Evanston.”