Daniel Biss.

Members of Evanston’s Rules Committee are again scheduled to vote Monday on whether to expand the city’s anti-harassment policy to cover actions by themselves and other elected and appointed officials.

The committee discussed the proposed change at its June meeting but tabled the measure after Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) proposed an amendment that other council members said would have so widened its scope as to invite baseless complaints.

The proposed provision as drafted by the city’s legal staff provided that an elected or appointed official would commit official misconduct under the city’s ethics code if in their official capacity they intentionally engaged in harassment on the basis of any legally protected status.

It included among many listed potential forms of harassment verbal taunts, jokes and threats; posters, cartoons and text messages, assault and unwanted touching.

It would also bar the exercise of authority “to intimidate or coerce a Covered Person or City resident such that the behavior creates a hostile environment.”

Kelly proposed amending that last provision to bar the exercise of authority “whether real or perceived to intimidate, coerce or otherwise interfere with the normal operation of the city or with the well-being of the residents such that the behavior creates a hostile environment.”

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said Kelly’s proposed language about well-being of residents was “very vague.”

Mayor Daniel Biss said he could imagine a situation where a resident might not like the leaf blower ban and found the enforcement of it to create a hostile environment.

“Is it then legitimate to file a complaint against a council member who voted for the ban?” Biss asked.

Biss moved to table the ordinance “to find the right formulation of what I think is an important idea that hasn’t been captured in a way that I’m comfortable with in this version.”

Kelly seconded the motion by Biss which was approved unanimously.

The packet for Monday’s meeting doesn’t contain any revised language to incorporate the concept Kelly proposed in her June amendment.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Somehow my confusion rests with the fact that the aldermen themselves are developing this legislation. Is this . perhaps a situation of “conflict of interest” or at least “self-interest”? I’m uncertain what the solution is. We do have elections and the ability to express our reactions to wrongful actions, but there are times when more immediate action needs to be taken.

  2. Again, city council is basically being forced (more or less) to spend hours on this issue because of 1 unhinged alderperson continuously harassing city staff (and then never owning up to these actions, but instead digging their heels in further, defending all of their actions). Maybe the next topic to spend time on is allowing city staff to anonymously file complaints against alderpersons that will be reviewed by city attorney thereby resulting in proper consequences like, oh I dunno, for starters,’said alderperson’ is required to write apology letters to those negatively impacted and then maybe be forced to sit through next month’s city council meeting with MUTE button on. Or maybe just put that alderperson in the corner for a time out? Just brain storming here.

    1. If I was an alderman, I would start a conspiracy for my more sensible colleagues and find a group need to go to the restroom when stupid proposals were raised from the usual source.

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