Report states Gardiner part of FBI probe over conduct
by BRIAN NADIG
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly looking into Alderman James Gardiner’s (45th) conduct in which he made demeaning remarks about people in private text messages sent to a former staffer and reportedly sought retaliation against some critics, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The newspaper reported from sources that agents approached Gardiner last week and have spoke to several other people while conducting the probe.
"Department of Justice policy prevents the FBI from commenting on the existence or non-existence of any investigation that or may not be occurring," an agency spokesman told Nadig Newspapers.
The Tribune’s report comes a few days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for the city Inspector General to investigate Gardiner’s conduct, including whether constituents were denied city services because of their political beliefs.
Also, CBS News Chicago reported that Gardiner allegedly instructed a staffer to have a background check conducted on a woman who had obtained an order of protection against him a few years ago.
In addition, dozens showed up in the evening on Monday, Sept. 13, outside of the 45th Ward service office, 5425 W. Lawrence Ave., for a rally in which protesters demanded his resignation. The ward office was closed at the time of the rally.
At a Sept. 10 news conference for the opening of the Irving Park Road bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River, Lightfoot said that the language used by Gardiner is "absolutely unacceptable" and that "under no circumstances" should constituents be denied a city service because of their political beliefs.
"Rather than death by 1,000 cuts in rumor and innuendo in the media, there ought to be (a thorough investigation)," she said.
In the private text messages that have been released by the former staffer to an anonymous anti-Gardiner blog, the alderman referred to several people, including an alderman, as a "b****" and in one instance Gardiner reportedly wrote "f*** that c***" in reference to a resident who had contacted the ward office. The texts were part of conversations that Gardiner was having with a former staffer, who also worked on his campaign.
The resident who was referred to as a "c***" said in an interview that the service requests, which included addressing a water leak near a water meter and a sinkhole-related issue, were addressed. She added that she is not aware of all of the details of the conversations that took place between Gardiner and the former staffer and did not want to comment further.
The released messages also include disparaging remarks which Gardiner wrote about City Council Finance Committee chief of staff Anne Emerson, communications/ political strategist Joanna Klonsky and Alderman Tom Tunney (44th).
Klonsky and Emerson have asked Gardiner for an in-person meeting to discuss the matter, while Tunney has said that Gardiner has apologized and that he is moving on. Klonsky said that Gardiner has demonstrated a "disturbing habit of degrading women" and should seek counseling.
On Sept. 3, Gardiner released the following statement: "I am sorry for my comments; they do not reflect my values. I have reached out to my colleagues and others to express my sincere regrets. I respect all people and apologize to those I may have offended."
In addition, CBS News and WTTW News reported last week that a Gardiner supporter, who works for a city department, may have asked a relative in the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office to obtain the criminal court records of a man who had been critical of Gardiner and that a text message shows that Gardiner was seeking to have the man’s previous criminal charges, one of which reportedly was more than 20 years old, "leaked."
The watchdog agency for the clerk’s office reportedly is now investigating whether the employee who is believed to have released the records did so properly.
Resident James Suh, whose records Gardiner reportedly was seeking, has been critical of Gardiner’s decision to delay approval of a proposed 10-story senior living complex at Six Corners and helped lead a protest against Gardiner’s decision. The project was eventually approved and is now under construction.
At the rally in front of the alderman’s office Monday evening, Suh said that Gardiner’s attempt to silence him by trying to damage his reputation was "truly and deeply un-American" given that the "right to free speech, right to protest" are core principles of democracy.
The rally was hosted by United Northwest Side, a political organization that describes itself as believing in "politics that work for working people."
In addition, a resident, who lives in the adjacent 38th Ward, has reported that inspectors were sent to her Jefferson Park home because she believes she had made a critical remark about Gardiner on Facebook. The inspectors reportedly accused her of illegally raising chickens and selling eggs but left without issuing any citations after no violations were found.
More than 20 aldermen have signed a letter condemning Gardiner’s actions, and at least 13 democratic committeepersons have filed a complaint with the Rules Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party, seeking possible sanctions. Gardiner serves as the 45th Ward democratic committeeperson.
State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19), whose district includes much of the 45th Ward, said on Facebook that "the recently uncovered words and actions of Alderman Gardiner directed at City Council colleagues, constituents and female staff are hurtful and disappointing to all of us who expect and deserve so much more from our elected officials and our workplaces."
Gardiner also is a defendant in two federal lawsuits, one of which accuses him of violating the First Amendment rights of some of his critics by not allowing them to comment on the ward’s Facebook page.
Another lawsuit accuses Gardiner and the police of abusing their powers when they had a man arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone that belonged to a city worker.