It has been widely reported in the media this week that I have requested a criminal investigation of official misconduct in Evanston. I did not make this decision lightly. I am very disappointed that I had to make such an unpleasant and embarrassing request.
Evanston is a great and wonderful City; one of the best urban ring cities in America. This isn’t to imply we don’t have our share of challenges and problems, but we have a dedicated community intent on solving them. We are fortunate. Nonetheless, we are living in a post-civil age. One where alternative facts have become part of the vernacular and rules of decorum no longer seem to apply. One where our leaders do not seem to be held accountable for their words or actions, nor feel obligated to take responsibility. And one where some in our community (including some elected officials) use their platforms to mock, ridicule, bully, harass, and troll those they disagree with rather than seek constructive dialogue. In short, we are living in strange times.
I refuse to accept some of these changing standards of decorum. If we have no rules and no civility, then we descend into chaos and exhibit the dysfunction sadly being observed right now. That is why I am doing what I can to draw a line and say “Enough.”
I do not think it’s appropriate for an elected official or anyone else for that matter to use vulgar language towards a colleague or a member of our community. I do not think it’s okay for the subject of a censure to vote on their own censure. I do not think it’s okay for an elected official to threaten and intimidate a City employee, nor remove Executive Session recordings from City Hall without the Council’s authorization. I do not think it’s okay for an Alderman to blatantly ignore the rules of Executive Session and meet with a subject of an investigation and a local attorney. All these things have occurred over the last 18 months in Evanston, yet no elected official has, as of yet, been held accountable.
If we fail to enforce our standards on these issues of misconduct, then we shouldn’t be surprised that someone who was privy to the most sensitive and privileged information would publicly disregard their duty and release the July 8th Executive Session packet. The release of this information constitutes Official Misconduct under the Illinois Official Misconduct Act, 720 ILCS 5/33-3. Our Aldermen, Mayor and City Clerk have a fiduciary responsibility to the City Council and to the City of Evanston (i.e., the Corporation) to protect the rights of City employees and other elected officials by protecting the privileged and confidential information concerning such individuals. This fiduciary duty appears to have been disregarded, which leaves these individuals vulnerable to disparagement and intimidation. That is why I have called for an investigation, to draw a line and say “Enough.”
It is extremely disappointing to see Evanston in the news in this manner, overshadowing all of the wonderful things happening in our city. Ignoring this breach and doing nothing was not an option in my opinion. We are better than this and we must behave better than this. We must reset our standards and expectations if we are to reestablish trust among the Council, transparency with our community, and deliver results for our City. I will do my part to help us get there and respectfully ask my fellow elected officials and citizens to do the same.
Mayor, City of Evanston