Mayor Lightfoot asks departing inspector general to investigate Ald. Gardiner’s profane, abusive and threatening text messages

Northwest Side Ald. Jim Gardiner has vehemently denied threatening to withhold city services from constituents who opposed him or organized protests against him.

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Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) speaks with reporters before the start of his first Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has requested an investigation into Ald. Jim Gardiner’s texts and allegations he threatened to withhold city services from constituents who disagreed with him.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday she has asked departing Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate profane, threatening and misogynistic text messages sent by Ald. Jim Gardiner.

“Rather than death by a thousand cuts and rumor and innuendo in the media, there ought to be a fulsome investigation,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference.

“We’re gonna recommend to the inspector general’s office that that investigation happen so we can actually get to the bottom of what did happen versus what didn’t happen.”

Gardiner could not be reached for comment.

He is married to Samantha Fields, a former city budget director and Emanuel administration holdover who served as Lightfoot’s director of legislative and governmental affairs.

But that didn’t stop the mayor from piling on by honing in on allegations Gardiner has vehemently denied — that the embattled Northwest Side alderman threatened to withhold city services from constituents who dared to oppose him or organize protests against him.

“First and foremost, no one should ever be denied access to city services because of their political opinion, who they may have supported in an election. That’s just not how we do things,” Lightfoot said.

“I’m the mayor for the entire city. People agree with me. People who don’t agree with me. But we’re never gonna support any effort to deny people access to city services. It’s fundamental.”

Last year, Lightfoot famously warned members of the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus who dared to vote against her 2021 city budget, “Don’t ask me for s—t for the next three years” when it comes to choosing projects for her $3.7 billion capital plan.

On Friday, Lightfoot said she talked to Gardiner more than a week ago when his profane and abusive text messages were first exposed by The People’s Fabric, an anonymous blog that bills itself as a political watchdog on the Northwest Side.

At the time, the allegations against Gardiner were primarily focused on what the mayor viewed as the alderman’s “disparaging conduct and comments” about and toward women.

“I was not unsparing in telling him that I thought that the words that were attributed to him were absolutely unacceptable. Some things just absolutely shouldn’t be said,” the mayor said.

“I know that, at times, people get frustrated. I get frustrated. Sometimes, you put things in writing that you regret. But a consistent pattern of using what I would say is misogynistic language about women [is] totally, utterly unacceptable.”

Since then, more text messages have surfaced about Gardiner’s threats to get even with constituents with whom he disagrees.

And CBS 2 Chicago has exposed another batch of text messages in which Gardiner refers to Lightfoot’s political consultant Joanna Klonsky as a “dumb b----.”

“Under no circumstances should a resident be denied access to city services simply because of their political choice and affiliation. That’s not OK,” the mayor said.

Last week, Gardiner apologized to Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Zoning Committee Chairman Tom Tunney (44th) for profane and abusive text messages about them or their top aides exposed by The People’s Fabric.

In one exchange, Gardiner refers to Tunney, the City Council’s first openly gay alderman, as a “b----” and said “f--- him.”

In another text, Gardiner refers to Waguespack’s chief of staff, Anne Emerson, as the 32nd Ward alderperson’s “b----.”

In yet another text message, he potentially talked about withholding services from a constituent and said, “f--- that c---.” That constituent donated to another aldermanic candidate in 2019, according to The People’s Fabric.

In an email to the Sun-Times earlier this week, Gardiner maintained he’s “never withheld, nor have I ever instructed or condoned my staff to withhold city services from any resident.”

He again pointed to a statement released Sept. 3, saying he’s sorry for his comments and how “they do not reflect my values.”

“I have reached out to my colleagues and others to express my sincere regrets,” Gardiner’s statement said. “I respect all people and apologize to others I may have offended.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who doubles as Democratic committeeperson of the 49th Ward, has asked the Cook County Democratic Organization to censure Gardiner.

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