Evanston's Board of Ethics cleared Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, Tuesday night of charges brought by two residents who claimed he'd violated the city's Code of Ethics in comments he made during Call of the Wards at a July City Council meeting.
In his remarks, the alderman had suggested he was not impressed when white residents, speaking during public comment that night, claimed that he and other members of the City Council were being racist in voting on city issues. The hot issue at public comment that night had been a proposed censure motion against City Clerk Devon Reid, who is black.
Trisha Connolly, who brought the complaint along with Albert Gibbs, drew gasps from Braithwaite supporters at the meeting when she claimed that the alderman "has done next to nothing to support black people in his ward."
She and Gibbs claimed that the remarks had constituted abuse of power, partiality and intimidation.
Testifying during the hearing, Braithwaite said that regardless of the outcome, it wouldn't stop his work to make Evanston a better place.
An attorney for Braithwaite, Shawn Jones, said people should be free to disagree with each other over community issues, without having that disagreement end up as an ethics complaint.
The board members voted 4-0 to dismiss the complaints of intimidation and abuse of power and 3-1 to dismiss the complaint about partiality.
"I don't think the statement alone rises to a violation of the code of conduct," Board Chair Jennifer Billingsly said. "We do want to have full and frank discussions. Sometimes people are going to say the wrong thing, but it has to be more than just a statement at the end of a long meeting to rise to a violation of the code."
The board's advisory opinion is subject to review by the City Council's Rules Committee.