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Staff asks aldermen to eliminate Evanston’s Board of Ethics

The City Council's Rules Committee is scheduled to act this evening on a staff recommendation to eliminate Evanston's Board of Ethics.

The Evanston Civic Center.

The City Council’s Rules Committee is scheduled to act this evening on a staff recommendation to eliminate Evanston’s Board of Ethics.

A memo from Deputy City Manager Kelley Gandurski recommends that instead of going before the board, ethics complaints be reviewed and prosecuted by a special counsel and heard before an administrative hearings officer.

Gandurski says the current procedure is “highly irregular and creates an inconsistent record” for potential judicial review.

She says the change would bring the process for addressing alleged ethics violations in line with how other violations of the city code are handled.

The memo says that over the last four years 15 complaints have been filed with the Board of Ethics and that the board found jurisdiction and held hearings on six of those complaints.

The proposed amendments to the city code would also eliminate the practice of the city reimbursing outside counsel fees for the targets of ethics complaints. Those fees have totaled nearly $32,000 over the past four years.

The changes would also establish fines of $100 to $750 for ethics code violations. It would leave open the option for the City Council to impose additional discipline on its own members and for the city manager to take disciplinary action pursuant to personnel rules and collective bargaining agreements.

The Rules Committee meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Details of the proposed changes are available in the meeting packet.

The Rules Committee consists of all nine aldermen plus the mayor. Assuming the committee decided to move forward with the plan, the ordinance implementing the proposed changes would still require introduction and approval at future City Council meetings.

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