Evanston residents sue 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Robin Rue Simmons over construction dispute
March 17, 2017
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Two Evanston residents filed a lawsuit Monday against Robin Rue Simmons, a candidate for 5th Ward alderman, for allegedly abandoning a home-renovation contract as president of a construction company.
Simmons won just over 50 percent of the vote in the February primary. She and Carolyn Murray advanced to the general election, which is scheduled for April 4. They will run to replace current Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who is not running for re-election.
The lawsuit concerns renovations Simmons had been hired to perform to their house in 2012, when she owned the now-defunct construction company, Signature Construction Services, Inc., as first reported by the Chicago Tribune. The company was involuntarily dissolved in 2014, according to state documents.
Attorneys for city residents Sophia and Thomas Jenkins filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie. The court date has been set for May 16.
The lawsuit asks for Simmons to pay the Jenkinses nearly $65,000 in damages, for what court documents describe as renovations done in a “negligent and/or unworkmanlike manner.”
Renovations on the Jenkins’ house with Signature Construction began in August 2012 and continued through June 2013. According to the lawsuit, the work was valued at $180,000.
By June, the Jenkinses had paid Signature Construction $160,000, according to the lawsuit, but alleged that work to their home was “substantially incomplete.” The lawsuit said Simmons then “abandoned all work and her obligations under the contract and walked off the job.”
The couple said in the lawsuit that they were unable to contact Simmons about continuing the work, and had to subsequently seek out other contractors to finish the work.
Simmons said she saw the lawsuit as a “political hit” because of its filing so close to the election. She said when she was in contract with the Jenkinses, they issued several orders for additional work. She said she had not heard from the couple since she stopped working for them.
“There was a cost for the additional work that he didn’t agree to pay for,” Simmons said. “At that time, I stopped working.”
Court documents also state that over the course of owning Signature Construction Services, Inc., Simmons went by at least four different variations of her name and used at least four different names for her company.
Simmons said over the course of divorce and remarriage she used different surnames, and that her company had different names in various stages of incorporation. She added that she believes she used only one company name while working for the Jenkinses.
The Jenkins’ attorney Mark Smith did not respond to requests for comment.
Simmons’ lawyer Ed Mullen said filing the lawsuit three weeks before the election seemed like a political move.
“I’ve been an election lawyer for a dozen years and I’ve seen this type of thing happen over and over again,” Mullen said. “From a legal perspective this is the kind of complaint that you’d get a demand letter for, there would be some kind of outreach before you file a lawsuit and it wouldn’t come blindly five years after the event occurred.”
Thomas Jenkins said the couple has no intention of targeting Simmons personally, but wants their situation resolved. Jenkins added that he and his wife had tried to mitigate the situation with Simmons before filing the lawsuit, but with no results.
“We took the proper steps,” Jenkins said. “They weren’t necessarily the steps we wanted to take, but this is what we felt we had to do in order to receive our money.”
He said he and his wife had to spend more money to finish renovations after Simmons’ construction company stopped working on their house. He said they decided to file the lawsuit now because they had enough money saved to do so.
“We just want to make sure that something happens and people hear of it,” Thomas Jenkins said. “We want our money back.”
Marissa Page contributed reporting.