Video: Our Spotlight Politics team of Amanda Vinicky, Heather Cherone and Paris Schutz discusses the latest on Ald. Jim Gardiner, the new CPS CEO and more in this week’s roundtable on “Chicago Tonight.” (Produced by Marissa Nelson)
The Chicago Board of Ethics has found there is probable cause to believe that Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th Ward) violated the city’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance by using his office to retaliate against his political foes.
Gardiner will have a chance to challenge the board’s determination, which could result in fines ranging between $200 to $5,000 per violation. If the board determines that Gardiner violated the ordinance, the Far Northwest Side alderperson could appeal that decision to the Cook County Circuit Court.
The unanimous action by the Chicago Board of Ethics on Monday, which was disclosed Wednesday, adds to the beleaguered alderman’s woes. WTTW News reported Tuesday that Gardiner is under federal investigation for allegedly taking bribes and demanding payments before taking official actions.
Gardiner declined to respond to a request for comment from WTTW News.
The board’s action is based on publicly available documents, including text messages obtained by WTTW News that show Gardiner obtained records showing that 45th Ward resident James Suh had been charged with unlawful use of a weapon in 2008.
The board’s decision, which did not name Gardiner in keeping with its rules of procedure, found that there is probable cause to conclude that the alderperson violated the city’s ethics rules on two separate occasions.
The first violation occurred when the alderperson directed a staff member to “consider and discuss with the official withholding city services to a constituent because the constituent appears to have supported a political opponent of the official,” according to the board’s decision.
Block Club Chicago reported Friday that several residents and business owners were targeted by city workers after they criticized Gardiner.
The second violation occurred when the alderperson directed a staff member “to obtain and ‘leak’ to social media criminal records of a constituent who had taken a position on matter different from the official’s,” according to the board’s decision.
In addition, directing city employees in that manner violates the Governmental Ethics Ordinance’s prohibition on using city resources for personal matters, according to the board’s decision.
The board also found that the alderperson violated the city’s ethical code of conduct, which requires city officials to “treat members of the public with respect and be responsive and forthcoming in their requests for information” and “act impartially in the performance of their duties, so that no private organization or individual is given preferential treatment.”
“Failure to adhere to these standards in the ways alleged and described … is per se unethical,” according to the board’s decision.
The Chicago Board of Ethics also called on Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to conduct “a full factual investigation into any other instances where this official’s conduct may have violated these or other ordinance provisions.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has twice called for Ferguson to probe whether Gardiner used the power of his office to retaliate against political critics.
A measure by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) calls on the City Council to hold a hearing into Gardiner’s behavior and consider censuring him.
Gardiner was elected in 2019 to represent parts of Jefferson Park, Norwood Park, Portage Park and Old Irving Park.