Firefighter alleges threat of retaliation from Gardiner
by BRIAN NADIG
A city firefighter claims that Alderman James Gardiner (45th) may have retaliated against him because of his 2019 involvement in a community group that was trying to bring an improvement to a local park.
Gardiner eventually stopped the project, which had begun under the tenure of former alderman John Arena (45th), and he allegedly wrote in a recently surfaced text that the man could "feel the brunt" if he kept pushing for the project.
The firefighter asked that his name and the name of the group not be used in the story because of fear of retaliation.
The firefighter said a former staffer in the ward office showed some of Gardiner’s text messages to him, including one in which Gardiner allegedly wrote that if "he keeps it up, he too will feel the brunt." He added that the texts provide a trail showing that he was being targeted.
In recent weeks the former staffer has released a series of text messages publicly that Gardiner reportedly wrote in 2019 in which he uses demeaning language to describe people including women, and asks the staffer to help research the criminal record of a constituent who had organized a rally in protest of Gardiner’s opposition to a zoning proposal.
The firefighter said that he received a call from a fire department member in 2019 warning him to back away from the project and that since that call, he has not been properly compensated for the position he holds in the department. He said a simple compensation error has not been corrected after 2 years of trying to resolve the issue.
The firefighter remembers the telephone call as follows: "This is a warning and listen very carefully. Stay off Facebook, leave Gardiner alone, don’t talk to him or mention him and quit with the ‘project.’ This is from the boss. Okay?"
The firefighter said that as a result of the call he stopped working on the project and avoids events that the alderman may attend.
"I was warned to stay away. I was following directions," he said, adding that a recent incident seems to demonstrate Gardiner’s attitude toward him and to others.
The firefighter said that he had learned that a resident a few weeks ago went to Gardiner’s office to discuss a different park-related matter and that the alderman reportedly told the resident that he needs to be respected and that the firefighter should put on his "big boy pants and come talk to me."
The resident confirmed to Nadig Newspapers the meeting with Gardiner.
Gardiner could not be reached for comment, but at a recent City Council meeting he said that while he has "sinned," he claims that he has "never acted on those rants."
Meanwhile, the city ethics board has said "probable cause" exists to suspect that Gardiner violated ordinances when he threatened to withhold city services to a constituent who supported an opponent in the 2019 aldermanic election and when he threatened to have the criminal record released of a resident who had been critical of him.
The board will offer Gardiner the opportunity to meet with the board before it makes a final ruling and issues a possible fine.
The city Inspector General and the FBI reportedly are looking into Gardiner’s conduct, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
"Department of Justice policy prevents the FBI from commenting on the existence or non-existence of any investigation that may or may not be occurring," an agency spokesman told Nadig Newspapers.