In a new twist, on Aug. 21, the City of Evanston’s Board of Ethics decided to grant Misty Witenberg’s motion for rehearing in a case alleging that Robin Rue Simmons committed ethics violations. The bulk of the allegations relate to a grant made by the City to Sunshine Enterprises to help facilitate business opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents of Evanston, and Ms. Rue Simmons’ connection to Sunshine. Ms. Rue Simmons denied any wrongdoing.
At a March 20 meeting, after the Board deliberated in closed session about whether they had jurisdiction to hear any of the claims, the Board announced that it would hear the claim of a conflict of interest in connection with City Council’s approval of funding to Sunshine in 2017.
On June 19, the Board held that the allegations that related to the time period before Ms. Rue Simmons took office as an alderman in May 2017 were resolved in a 2017 case. With respect to the allegations related to the time after Ms. Rue Simmons became alderman, the Board found that Ms. Rue Simmons recused herself from voting on a motion to approve funding to Sunshine, which the Board said was reasonable.
On July 24, the Board ostensibly entered its final decision in favor of Ms. Simmons.
In her motion for rehearing, Ms. Witenberg challenged the Board’s June 19 and July 24 decisions on the ground that the Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/1.02, requires three members of a five member Board to vote in favor of any decisions; and she alleges that was not done. She also raised additional issues.
Mario Tretto, Jr., Deputy City Attorney and the staff attorney to the Board, told the RoundTable that the Board’s decision to grant the rehearing “vacates the original decision and any opinion filed in the case and sets the cause at large with the Board of Ethics.”
Ms. Witenberg also filed a Request for Review with the Attorney General’s Office, alleging that the Board’s June 19 and July 24 decisions violated the Open Meetings Act because three members of the Board did not vote for the decisions. The City’s response acknowledges that only two members of the Board voted in favor of the June 19 and July 24 decisions, but argues only two votes were required under Roberts Rules of Order.