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Will congressional candidate, Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin challenge ethics findings?

Treasurer Conyears-Ervin won't answer question about ethics claims in one-on-one interview
Treasurer Conyears-Ervin won't answer question about ethics claims in one-on-one interview 04:58

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Melissa Conyears-Ervin is running for a new job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

However, there are ongoing questions about her current role as the City of Chicago Treasurer.

Last year, two former employees of Conyears-Ervin's received a $100,000 settlement after being fired. They complained they were asked to run personal errands.

The Board Of Ethics continues to investigate the matter.  A campaign spokesperson told CBS2:  "At this point, any findings from the Board are preliminary, and the Treasurer has a right to address those findings through a confidential process. She is availing herself of that right."

Determination of what – if any -- fine she may have to pay is still being worked out.

CBS 2 has learned that the city's Law Department is looking into the next steps, and a judge will likely weigh in.


EDITORS NOTE:   A correction has been made to a prior version of this story.  We had reported  Conyears-Ervin had been found in violation of the city's ethics code and issued a fine.

That has not happened.  

In November, the Board of Ethics did vote 4-0 to determine there is "probable cause" that the treasurer violated city ethics ordinances.  Her counsel met with the board to rebut the probable cause findings.  

The board's ultimate determination -- and decision on whether to issue a fine -- has not yet been ruled on.  That is expected at their next board meeting in April. 

Last week, for the first time, Conyears-Ervin sat down with CBS 2 to address the investigation. Will she be fighting back against or accepting the board's findings?

Tye: "Will you be contesting those results?"

Conyears-Ervin: "We have addressed those complaints from four years ago on multiple occasions."

Conyears-Ervin, who declined our interview request last fall when the story of alleged ethics violations first broke, sat down with CBS 2 last week for a profile on her run to replace U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois) in the 7th Congressional District.

Tye: "Will you be challenging those findings? You have the right to do so. Will you?"

Conyears-Ervin: "So let me answer this again. I've answered these four-year-old complaints."

Tye: "Where have you answered this before? I've looked pretty voraciously. I haven't seen any answers to the question, " will you be challenging that finding?"

Conyears-Ervin: "So I wasn't finished with what I was saying."

Tye: "Apologies."

Conyears-Ervin: "And if you need some more information, we can provide it."

However, her team could not provide a single quote or interview anywhere where she has addressed challenging the ethics findings.

A spokesperson later told us, "She has answered the charges generally…. She has made policy changes."

When pressed for what those changes were, CBS 2 was given a news release from last fall announcing several new hires in her office – including a chief ethics officer – but no evidence of any policy changes.

Conyears-Ervin: "If I'm not answering in the way you are pleased, let me apologize to you. But let me tell you, I won't be distracted. I have to focus on what's important to the residents."

Tye: "Support of Congress is at a near-historic low. When you have an issue like the one you're navigating in your current job, I think what's important to the voters - at least many have told us - is clarity on what happened with those employees who – albeit four years ago – it's a question of character. It's a question of judgment. And it doesn't seem like you're ready to answer that very basic question: Will you be challenging the Board of Ethics decision?"

Conyears-Ervin: "That's interesting."

Tye: "It's a very basic…"

Conyears-Ervin: "You think that's basic? Let me tell you what's basic to the residents that I talk to - because I talk to them on a daily basis. What's basic to them is being able to feed their kids. That's what's basic to them."

Tye: "But I'm not asking them a question. I'm asking the person who's running for Congress a question. My question to you very simply is…"

Conyears-Ervin: "And I've answered it."

Tye: "No, you haven't."

Conyears-Ervin: "I have. I have."

Tye: "So you are, or are not, going to be challenging?"

Conyears-Ervin: "I've answered your question."

Tye: "What was the answer? I'm not hearing it."

Conyears-Ervin: "What I stated was, I've already responded to the four-year-old complaint."

Tye: "That's not answering my question."

Conyears-Ervin: "Yes, it is."

Tye: "Why won't you answer these questions today, freshly?"

Conyears-Ervin: "There are a few weeks left in this election."

Tye: "That's where it makes it even more important to answer these questions in the homestretch. Don't folks have a right to have clarity here?"

Conyears-Ervin: "As I mentioned to you, if you need some more information, we will provide it - because I've answered this."

Tye: "But you're the candidate. You're sitting right in front of me. Can't you give me that answer?"

Conyears-Ervin: "I've already answered it."

Tye: "With respect, Ms. Conyears-Ervin, you did not answer my question."

Conyears-Ervin: "And respect, Chris."

Tye: "It's a binary question. It's a yes or a no."

Conyears-Ervin: "Let me tell you this. We can move on, Chris."

Tye: "Are you going to challenge the Board of Ethics findings? Yes or no?"

Conyears-Ervin: "Chris, I've answered your question."

Tye: "Yes or no, ma'am?

Conyears-Ervin: "Chris, I've answered it."

Tye: "OK."


Tye: "There was 100,000 taxpayer dollars spent settling the complaint by those two employees, and the city agreed to the settlement. That's $100,000 of city taxpayer dollars. Do you feel like you have a duty to be more transparent in what happened here, considering that many say, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire?'"

Conyears-Ervin: "The complaints from four years ago - not only do they misrepresent the Office of the City Treasurer, they certainly misrepresent me."

Late Wednesday, the Treasurer's office spokesperson said a handbook for employees - including an updated and clarified ethics policy - has been distributed to staff, and an in-person ethics training program is in the works.

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