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Alderman's Husband Seeking Favor From Rahm Won't Face Ethics Board Fine

By Heather Cherone | October 26, 2017 1:02pm | Updated on October 27, 2017 8:37am
 Evelyn “Champagne” King performs at The Chosen Few DJs house picnic in Jackson Park.
Evelyn “Champagne” King performs at The Chosen Few DJs house picnic in Jackson Park.
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DNAinfo/Angela Myers

HYDE PARK — Fourth Ward Ald. Sophia King's husband won't have to pay the $2,500 fine that he was slapped with by the city's Ethics Board for asking Mayor Rahm Emanuel for help organizing The Chosen Few DJs House Music Picnic in 2015, when the gathering celebrated its 25th anniversary.

DJ Alan King, a founder of The Chosen Few crew that puts on the annual picnic and music festival, emailed Emanuel at his private email address in May 2015 in an effort to get a fence built by a construction crew working in Jackson Park moved to allow the festival to take place as planned.

"I have a bit of a crisis situation with the Chicago Park District . . . due to some construction work the park district has allowed on our picnic site (despite permitting the site to us)," King wrote to Emanuel. "I apologize, but it is a very serious situation for me and my business partners, and I think you might be able to help at least to broker a solution."

Emanuel asked King if he had contacted Park District Supt. Mike Kelly. The mayor also forwarded King’s message to a top aide.

Two weeks later, King emailed the mayor again to say, “I think everything is going to work out.”

He added, “Please say hello to Amy [Rule, Emanuel's wife] from Sophia and me.”

Emanuel's emails were released in June as part of a settlement with the Better Government Association, a watchdog group that filed Freedom of Information Act requests and sued the city for access to the emails.

The email triggered an investigation by the city's Ethics Board, which determined that Alan King violated the city's lobbying ordinance by failing to register with the board within five days of lobbying a city official.

Officials with the Ethics Board announced Thursday that they had reached a settlement with Alan King that reverses the $2,500 fine levied by the board against him in July.

In a statement issued by his wife's spokeswoman, Alan King said he was pleased with the settlement.

“The board interpreted the Ethics Ordinance in my case in a manner that was broadly condemned and disagreed with, and I am confident that this interpretation would not have withstood judicial scrutiny, " Alan King said. "I’m glad to have the matter resolved.”

In June, Emanuel said the Ethics Board had become overzealous in its pursuit of reform.

"We cannot collapse a lobbyist and a citizen, and that’s what’s happened,” Emanuel said. "A citizen expressing their views to their elected democratic officials is doing exactly what you want in a representative form of government. There has to be a clarity that doesn't change our commitment to reform while acknowledging that people have a right to speak to their elected officials."

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has also criticized the city's ordinance as overly broad.

While Alan King does not have to pay the fine, he agreed not to lobby any city official for one year without registering and to complete a "lobbyist law training program."

The fine could be reimposed if Alan King violates the agreement.

The settlement includes no admission by King — who is also an attorney — that he violated the ordinance by sending the email to Emanuel without registering as a lobbyist.

Sophia King won a seat on the City Council in February to represent the 4th Ward, which stretches from Downtown to Hyde Park along the lakefront. In February 2016, Emanuel appointed King to the City Council to replace Ald. Will Burns, who took a job with Airbnb.

The Kings are longtime friends of former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama. Shortly after leaving the White House, the former president endorsed King to represent the ward where he still owns a home.

The Ethics Board has ruled in seven cases of unregistered lobbying stemming from the release of Emanuel's emails. Final settlements have been reached in King's case and three others.

Former 43rd Ward Ald. William Singer paid a $25,000 fine for contacting the mayor on behalf of United Airlines last summer about the effort to build new gates at O'Hare Airport, which was approved. United paid $2,000, the maximum allowed.

The board also rescinded the $2,500 fine it levied against Anthony Davis, president of Linden Capital Partners, who wrote Emanuel in December 2014. Davis asked Emanuel to act on his request for a zoning change he said was needed for a training center that had been displaced by a CTA project.

In addition, the board waived the $2,500 fine it assessed James Abrams, a friend of the mayor who contacted him about the city's minimum wage ordinance,