City Attorney Says Ethics Commission Has No Jurisdiction on Handling of Sarah Lopez's Termination
In a letter dated September 27, 2022, addressed to Mayor Lovero and Berwyn City Council, City Attorney Anthony Bertuca states that the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over the complaint Alderman Joe Carmichael filed regarding the handling of Sarah Lopez’s termination. Sarah Lopez is a former City employee and former BSD100 School Board member who admitted to racially harassing Phil Robbins, a Black contractor working in Berwyn. The incident happened in May but was not made public until Robbins went to the media in July, after becoming frustrated with Mayor Lovero’s lack of action on the matter. Lopez was not fired until after the incident was publicly exposed and concerned residents rallied and called for action.
In his letter, Bertuca states: “More specifically, the Ethics Commission’s scope of authority is limited to Chapter 209, Sections 209.02 (Prohibited Political Activities) and 209.03 (Gift Ban). As your complaint does not allege a violation of Chapter 209, the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over your complaint. Accordingly, the Ethics Commission deems your complaint insufficient to allege a violation, as the allegations made do not relate to the prohibited conduct enumerated in Chapter 209. Based on the foregoing, the Ethics Commission will close its file on this matter and will not conduct any future proceeding related to your complaint.”
Seven weeks ago, on August 9, 2022, Alderman Joe Carmichael made a motion to file a unified complaint with the Ethics Commission to investigate:
1) When did the disciplinary process begin?
2) What were the steps of the investigation that needed to be carried out in order to reach the conclusion that termination was the proper discipline?
3) Were there previous complaints of discrimination or harrassment regarding Sarah Lopez?
4) What actions were taken to prevent Sarah Lopez from interacting with the public as a city employee once the city was made aware of this incident?
5) Do Sarah Lopez‘s blight tickets show a pattern of discrimination?
According to Berwyn’s ordinances, the Ethics Commission was to respond to the complainant, Ald. Carmichael, in 3 days. It took 7 weeks, and the response came from the City Attorney, not the Ethics Commission members. It is unclear who the current commission members are. Commission member Robert Reyes, City Treasurer and supporter of Sarah Lopez’s PAC for school board for South Berwyn School District 100, said he would recuse himself after Ald. Carmichael requested it.
Ethics Commission Hasn't Met Since At Least 2015
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for “records of all complaints filed to the Ethics Commission from 2015 through the present date and the meeting minutes for any hearings held” resulted in “no records responsive,” implying the Ethics Commission hasn’t met nor held a hearing since at least 2015.