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On Sept. 17, the City’s Board of Ethics decided for the second time that it had jurisdiction over an ethics complaint filed against Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. On Sept. 17, the Board made its decision after discussing the matter in closed session. The Board’s earlier decision was made on Aug. 20, after discussing the matter in open session.
In an abundance of caution, Board Chair Jennifer Billingsley said on Sept. 17 that she thought it would be prudent to decide the jurisdictional issue after discussing the matter in closed session because that is what is provided in the City’s Code of Ethics. Ms. Billingsley said she wanted to make sure the Board did things properly so there would not be a challenge to the proceedings.
A document titled “Ethics Complaint Against Alderman Braithwaite” and dated Aug. 5, alleges that Ald. Braithwaite made comments in the Call of the Wards section of the July 15, Council meeting, which the complaint alleges constitute an abuse of power, impartiality, and intimidation by a public official.
The complaint alleges that Ald. Braithwaite said:
“I really sit here and I have a difficult time when I hear white folks admonishing me and using the word racism like it’s some coin phrase that you just came up with. Unless you’ve walked in my shoes or any one of us blacks sitting back here, I suggest you keep that to yourself. You want to have that conversation internally, I’m a big fan of that internal versus external conversations. Do that.”
Shawn Jones, Ald. Braithwaite’s attorney, argued on Sept. 17 that the comments are “just not a Code of Ethics violation,” and urged the Ethics Board to deny jurisdiction.
A finding of jurisdiction does not constitute a finding that Ald. Braithwaite violated the Code of Ethics, but only that the Board will hold a hearing to decide if he did. A hearing on the complaint will likely be held at the Board’s next meeting.