Where Evanston Lacks Due Process for Residents

Due process comes in two flavors, both of which are intended to balance government powers and protect individuals from unjust actions. Procedural due process focuses on a timely and impartial adjudication process. Substantive due process is the principle empowering courts and other hearing bodies to define and guarantee fundamental fairness and justice, without interference from legislators or executive powers.

However, as you move from state to municipal government, due process, and the government accountability that comes with it, becomes murky. As Evanston doesn’t have a separate and co-equal “judicial” branch, those powers are primarily managed by our executive (City Manager and mayor) and legislative branches (City Council), and their representatives.

Local governments cite efficiency and cost when sheltering this encroachment upon review and hearing procedures—though unchecked fiscal, legislative and enforcement powers can cost taxpayers much more. The dilemma is most obvious when it’s left to residents to check these powers in bringing complaints of municipal code violations to those who manage the process, as demonstrated below.

Submitting a Complaint against the City Manager

Evanston Administrative Hearings

Adjudicates charges of civil code violations.

Hearing Division  City Manager Office’s Division of Administrative Adjudication
Oversees Hearing Proceedings City Manager’s Chief Financial Officer, under the supervision of the City Manager
Determines Move to Hearing City Manager’s Chief Financial Officer, appointed by and under the supervision of the City Manager
Adjudicates Hearing Hearing Officers, appointed by the City Manager
Imposes Penalties for Violations Hearing Officers, appointed by the City Manager
Can Modify Imposed Penalties City Manager (for debt obligations)

Representation of Counsel

The City Manager receives free, tax-payer-funded representation through a City attorney, designated by him.

Residents are not provided legal representation, and typically must retain it outside of Evanston, as surrounding municipal law attorneys either represent, have represented, or seek to represent the City.


Submitting a Complaint about a Zoning Administrator’s Decision

Evanston Zoning Board of Appeals

Hears and decides appeals to Zoning Administrator orders and final decisions.

Complaint Submitted to Zoning Administrator
Interprets Applicable Zoning Code Zoning Administrator
Investigates Complaint Zoning Administrator
Determines Action to be Taken Zoning Administrator
Determines Move to Zoning Hearing Zoning Administrator
Advises the Hearing Board Zoning Administrator’s Zoning Planner

Reporting an Ethics Violation By an Elected Official

Evanston Board of Ethics

Makes findings of fact on questions of ethics code violations by City officials and employees.
Reports to City Council.

Complaint Submitted to City Attorney, who also serves as primary legal advisor to elected officials
Determines Move to Ethics Hearing City Attorney (primary legal advisor to elected officials)
Interprets Complaint & Applicable Ethics Code City Attorney (primary legal advisor to elected officials)
Determines Witnesses to Give Testimony City Attorney (primary legal advisor to elected officials)
Adjudicates Hearings City Attorney (primary legal advisor to elected officials)
Members of the board (appointed and approved by City officials)
Advises the Hearing Board City Attorney, (primary legal advisor to elected officials)
Elected Officials
Writes Findings & Determinations City Attorney (primary legal advisor to elected officials)