Council tables candidate issue, remains neutral on Civic Center

Lee Ettleman

Evanston’s mayor accused aldermen of being prejudiced against a candidate for a city board during Monday’s Evanston City Council meeting because the candidate works for Northwestern.

Aldermen pushed back a vote on whether to appoint NU Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Ronald Nayler to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, a board that regulates land use. Aldermen said they wanted to wait for a report from the city’s Board of Ethics on Nayler’s possible conflicts of interest.

Nayler’s appointment was brought before the city’s Board of Ethics after citizens raised concerns that Nayler might not be able to make impartial decisions. His position at NU involves zoning and planning for the school, and he would have to recuse himself from issues related to the university that come before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

But Mayor Lorraine H. Morton, who nominated Nayler, said aldermen were deliberately trying to block Nayler’s appointment because they assumed he would be biased toward the university.

“If you read your Robert’s Rules of Order it will tell you that if you want to kill something, table it,” Morton said. “Were he not at Northwestern, would you have the same concerns? Is this a prejudice on somebody’s part?”

Morton said the City Council’s decision to “tear (Nayler) through the wringer” before voting set a precedent that would make future board appointments more difficult.

“If we’re going to go through this procedure for this particular person, what would we do with the next person?” Morton asked. “It’s going to make it very difficult to get people to be on our boards and commissions, and we have enough trouble with that already.”

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) responded that the council was not tabling Nayler’s appointment because Nayler was from NU but because he is involved with land-use decisions at the school. Bernstein also said the council was not denying Nayler’s appointment but holding off on the vote.

“Let’s see what the Ethics Board has to say and then we’ll make our vote up or down,” Bernstein said.

Aldermen also voted to remain neutral on whether the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., should be recommended for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The nearly-100-year-old building is deteriorating, and aldermen have discussed selling the property and relocating city offices. Aldermen said they fear that if they give the building landmark status, selling it could be more difficult because it could not be demolished in the future.

A recommendation to the national register is different from a declaration by the council though, and would not place any restrictions on whether the building could be demolished. The council’s decision Monday night to remain neutral has no bearing on the Civic Center’s fate as a potential city landmark.

Reach Lee S. Ettleman at [email protected]