Dan Coyne, a Ridgeville Park District board member, says he’s filed an ethics complaint against Evanston Alderman Ann Rainey because she criticized him during a City Council meeting.

Coyne claims a section of the city’s current ethics code bars elected officials from engaging in “any activity in furtherance of an effort to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to any federal, state, or local public office.”

However, while the code uses that phrase in defining “campaign for elective office” it defines “prohibited political activity” with a series of more specific examples — which generally are phrased in terms of prohibiting actions in support for a candidate and are silent regarding voicing opposition to one.

The ethics code bars prohibited political activity by elected officials during “compensated time” which it defines as “any period of time when the officer or employee is on premises under the control of the employer and any other time when the officer or employee is executing his/her official duties, regardless of location.”

Coyne, who sharply criticized Rainey during public comment at the April 1 Rules Committee and City Council meetings, claims that Rainey’s responses later in those meetings violated the ethics code because he was running for reelection to the Ridgeville board.

Balloting for that election concluded the next day, April 2, and Coyne was reelected to one of three available seats with a final margin of two votes over the fourth-place finisher, Robert Bady, who had campaigned with Coyne.

Rainey, 8th Ward, did not mention the election or candidates in the race other than Bady and Coyne in her remarks.

The City Council tonight is scheduled to give final approval to a rewrite of the city’s ethics code. It redefines prohibited political activity, at section 1-10-4 (F), in a way that appears to make clear that verbal criticism such as that engaged in by Rainey last April would not be prohibitied.

Last month the Board of Ethics cleared Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward of an ethics complaint brought against him by two residents who objected remarks he made during a City Council meeting in July.

Related stories

Ethics code rewrite nears final approval (10/29/19)

Board clears Braithwaite of ethics complaint (10/16/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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