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Judge gives green light for Geneva ethics complaint to continue

GENEVA – A Kane County judge has denied the city of Geneva’s motion to dismiss an ethics complaint against itself, Mayor Kevin Burns and others.

In a two-page Sept. 1 ruling, Kane County Circuit Judge David Akemann determined that the legislative intent in Geneva’s ordinance meant that decisions made by its ethics commission are, in fact, subject to administrative review by a court.

Akemann gave Geneva until Oct. 2 to file a response and continued the case to Oct. 5. Akemann’s ruling stems from a court filing by former 5th Ward Alderman Tom Simonian. Simonian sought to reverse a March 20 decision by the Geneva Ethics Commission to dismiss his complaint, which named the city, Burns, ethics commission chairman Timothy Moran and Deputy Fire Chief Mark Einwich as defendants.

Simonian’s complaint alleged that Einwich intentionally did campaign work for Burns while in uniform and using a city vehicle.

At the time, Burns and Simonian were rivals in a hotly contested election for mayor, with Burns ultimately winning a fifth term April 4.

Simonian’s complaint also alleged that the commissioners should have recused themselves because they had all been appointed by Burns.

The ethics commission had dismissed Simonian’s complaint, citing a lack of evidence, and its members also refused to recuse themselves.

In court papers, Simonian asked the judge to reverse the ethics commission’s ruling and to have his complaint heard by a disinterested third party with no ties to Burns.

In response, the city and Moran sought to dismiss Simonian’s claim. They asserted that because Geneva never expressly adopted the provisions of the state’s Administrative Review Act, the court did not have jurisdiction over the decisions of the city’s ethics commission.

In his decision, Akemann wrote that while the Administrative Review Law applies only where it is adopted, when judicial review cannot be had under that law, a petition for review is “sufficient to authorize review under common law.”

Simonian had filed his ethics complaint March 13, alleging Einwich had delivered campaign signs to Burns’ house while in uniform and using a city vehicle.

In testimony at the ethics hearing, Einwich said the campaign sign had become lodged under his vehicle and he called Burns to ask what to do with it. Burns responded in a text to drop it off at his house.

If the commission had found Einwich’s actions to be intentional, the punishment could have been up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, according to the city’s code.

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