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Ald. Jim Gardiner should think really hard about resigning

Misuse of office and vengeful tactics, as are alleged, should have no place in city government

45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner
45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) should consider resigning. The number of accusations of misuse of his office are too numerous to ignore and too distracting to the city’s business.

  • Gardiner has admitted he has used words so offensive they should never be uttered even in private. In text messages, Gardiner allegedly referred to several people, including an alderman, as a “b----.” In another text, he called a constituent a “c---.” On Sept. 14, Gardiner apologized before the City Council, though his mechanical reading from a prepared statement didn’t satisfy everyone.
  • Gardiner is the apparent subject of a Chicago Board of Ethics inquiry made public last week into whether he discussed withholding city services from a political opponent and urged a former staff member to leak a political opponent’s criminal record. The Ethics Board said it found probable cause that an unnamed public official had done so. Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez’s office also announced this month that Martinez wants the office’s inspector general to investigate whether an employee in her office released information about the past criminal court case of Gardiner’s political opponent.
  • Gardiner allegedly tried to use taxpayer funds to pay an employee for work the employee did on Gardiner’s 2020 campaign for ward committeeperson, according to a WBEZ report. Instead of using campaign funds to pay for the political work, Gardiner allegedly sought to boost the employee’s city salary by $10,000.
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called on Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to probe whether Gardiner has used his office to retaliate against his political opponents.
  • Northwest Side Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) is asking colleagues to join her in calling for the Council’s Rules Committee to consider censuring Gardiner for his reported retaliation against constituents and his “derogatory language.” Because that language took place away from the Council floor, however, it might be outside the scope of a censure.
  • A construction worker has sued Ald. Gardiner and the city claiming a wrongful arrest and harassment that threw his life into turmoil after he picked up a lost cell phone, which he planned to return, that belonged to a Gardiner staffer. The worker was accused of stealing the phone and jailed, and police were sent to his home, where the worker’s roommate allegedly was threatened. Gardiner and his ward superintendent also allegedly went to the apartment.
  • Gardiner and a political ally claimed Gardiner’s predecessor, John Arena, engaged in political activity and made a rude gesture at a community meeting, which led to Arena being forced out of his job in the city’s Planning Department. Through a city spokesperson, Arena denied the charges at the time. In retrospect, given the information coming out recently, Gardiner’s claims should have been forcefully challenged.
  • In 2018, Judge Sebastian Patti issued an emergency court order that Gardiner should have no contact with an ex-girlfriend, her family, friends, employer or co-workers. The woman had alleged Gardiner was stalking her.
  • Sources with inside information say the FBI is investigating Gardiner for allegedly retaliating against residents who opposed him politically, according to WTTW.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Monday, “The language that Ald. Gardiner used to describe women is absolutely repulsive.” She also said, while saying the allegations are unproven, “There can’t be any place in our city . . . where you are denying people city resources because they voted for someone else. There cannot be any place in our city where you are sending city inspectors to harass business owners and residents.”

At this point, nothing has been proved. But some political insiders say Gardiner has anger management issues and a short trigger for people who oppose him. He also stands accused of using the powers of his office to further his political and personal agendas, and that there is no line he feels he can’t cross. Vengeful tactics should have no place in city government. Even political opponents should feel comfortable asking their aldermen to provide constituent services.

Moreover, some of his colleagues say he has not been an effective alderman. He has not taken the lead on important legislative issues.

The City Council’s reputation already is terribly stained by the 30 Chicago aldermen who have been convicted since 1972 of crimes tied to their official duties. The allegations against Gardiner are further sullying the Council’s image.

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