Under fire for allegedly denying services to residents of his ward who opposed him — and reportedly under investigation by federal authorities — Chicago Ald. Jim Gardiner apologized for profanity-laced text messages he sent about constituents and others, saying they were inappropriate “rants” but that he didn’t act on them.
“I take full responsibility for my offensive words in those messages,” Gardiner said from a prepared statement he read in the middle of a city council meeting. “I want to make it clear that I have never acted on those rants, however they should not have been expressed and it certainly was not my intention to demean anyone.”
This comes as another city council member, Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd Ward, introduced a resolution calling on the council to hold hearings on Gardiner’s conduct, and consider censuring, or formally reprimanding, the alderman. Rodriguez Sanchez did not speak on the resolution, which was sent directly to the rules committee.
Gardiner faces allegations of retaliating against Northwest Side constituents who’ve been critical of him by denying them ward services, such as parking permits. He’s also previously apologized to colleagues for apparently sending text messages in which he refers to Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, as well as two women who work in and around City Hall as “bitch[es].”
The first-term alderman also used the term to describe a constituent in text messages revealed by the anonymous Northwest Side group, The People’s Fabric. On Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that federal investigators have launched a probe into Gardiner’s conduct during his two years in office.
Gardiner arrived at council 30 minutes late Tuesday, just as a public speaker who said he was a 45th Ward constituent called on him to resign. Gardiner walked a slow lap around the council chambers, greeting and appearing to shake hands with Tunney and others, before taking his seat. He declined to answer questions from reporters before the council meeting, and left the meeting without answering any of them again.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week said she’s asking the city’s inspector general to investigate allegations against the alderman. At least one of his colleagues — Rodriguez Sanchez — has called on Gardiner to resign. And the revelations prompted two dozed aldermen, City Clerk Anna Valencia and City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin to sign a letter urging Gardiner to offer an apology in-person.
Gardiner apparently took heed of that last request. But in his apology regarding the text messages, Gardiner made it clear he intended to remain alderman.
“This has been an embarrassment to many and offensive to others, and again I want to apologize to those referenced in the texts, and to my family. I can do better and will strive to prove that through my actions as I continue to serve this great city,” he said.
Gardiner is currently being sued by multiple constituents in two separate cases. The first case is brought by a man who says the alderman harassed and threatened him after he found a lost cell phone that happened to belong to Gardiner’s ward boss, Charles Sikanich. Another is a freedom of speech case brought by constituents who say they’ve been blocked from the alderman’s official Facebook page after criticizing him.
And on Tuesday evening, a group of protesters gathered outside Gardiner’s Jefferson Park office, chanting for the alderman to resign. Among those present was resident James Suh, who said the alderman dug up court records about him because he opposed a development in the ward.
“He’s telling us all he is unfit for the office he holds,” Suh said.