Ethics Board to hear complaints against Rainey regarding Harley Clarke fundraising


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) at a city meeting. Rainey is being accused of violating parts of the city’s Code of Ethics.

Samantha Handler, Copy Chief

Evanston’s Board of Ethics announced Tuesday that it will hear two complaints filed against Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) regarding claims that she inappropriately forwarded an email and abused her power as an alderman, despite concerns from Rainey’s counsel about due process.

Both complaints allege Rainey acted in violation of the city’s Code of Ethics in the lead-up to the City Council’s decision in July to move forward with the demolition of the Harley Clarke Mansion in north Evanston. The demolition was proposed and will be funded by a group of private donors with the group Evanston Lighthouse Dunes.

The complaints come from residents who are supporters of two groups interested in preservation of the mansion — Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens and Save Harley Clarke. An advisory referendum regarding the mansion’s demolition will be included on the ballot in November.

Rainey declined to comment on the committee’s decision.

One of the complaints — filed by Evanston residents Lori Keenan and Clare Kelly — included six claims against Rainey. Board chair Jennifer Billingsley told The Daily that the board does not have jurisdiction over two of the claims because they did not cite specific sections of the city’s Code of Ethics. One claim the committee will not hear alleges that Rainey intimidated Keenan.

Kelly told The Daily she is glad the board will hold a hearing on the other counts against Rainey, and said Rainey’s actions have “tainted” the decisions made about Harley Clarke.

“We feel that she needs to be barred from any further activity involving the Harley Clarke mansion,” Kelly said.

The committee will also hear a complaint filed by Evanston resident Nancy Sreenan alleging that Rainey forwarded an email from her to the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes group without her permission.

The email from Sreenan — which was sent to all nine aldermen, the mayor and the city manager — urges the council to reject the group’s proposal to demolish the mansion. Rainey’s attorney Art Newman said at the meeting that nothing in the city’s Code of Ethics prevents an alderman from forwarding an email.

The board will also consider several claims from Keenan and Kelly’s complaint, including allegations Rainey used the “influence and prestige” of her office to advance the interests of Evanston Lighthouse Dunes. Newman said the prohibited activities outlined in the second complaint do not apply to aldermen.

At the start of the meeting, Newman raised concerns about the committee’s process and Rainey’s right to due process.

The board will hear the complaints against Rainey on Oct. 25, despite objections from Newman that he has a conflict with that date. Billingsley told The Daily that the allegations and complaints must be heard and there are “many attorneys” who can represent Rainey at that date.

“I’m uncomfortable delaying consideration of this matter when there’s so much going on relating to the underlying allegations,” Billingsley said at the meeting. “I don’t want there to be any issue when this committee did not bring things forward in a timely way.”

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