CHICAGO (CBS) — The heat turned up another notch Thursday on the hot seat for Northwest Side Ald. James Gardiner (45th).
The latest concerns about Gardiner’s conduct are that he used a ward staffer to get private court records he could use in retaliation. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov obtained relevant texts, and talks to the man Gardiner allegedly targeted.READ MORE: 'An Important Time For Us': Chicagoans Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
James Suh lives in the 45th Ward. When Kozlov asked him if he felt violated, he replied, “Of course, I definitely do.”
In 2019, Suh organized a rally against the then-newly-elected Ald. Gardiner – protesting Gardiner’s stance on a senior development project at Six Corners – Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue, and Irving Park Road – in the Portage Park neighborhood. A day later, texts indicated Gardiner wanted revenge.
“It’s just so disturbing and surreal to think that an elected official would want to retaliate and intimidate someone into silence,” Suh said.
CBS 2 obtained the text exchange directly from one of Gardiner’s former staffers, who saved them. The staffer said a ward employee got court records through a relative who works in the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, and passed them on.
Under pictures of those records, Gardiner texts: “James Suh says I overstep boundaries? Maybe that gets leaked.”
Afterward comes a discussion about getting Suh’s mug shot and sharing the information with an ally who runs a ward Facebook page.
“For sure, there needs to be some sort of punitive action,” Suh said.READ MORE: Downtown Chicago Roadblocks Quell Mexican Independence Day Street Celebrations
These texts came after that same staffer shared another set of texts, in which Gardiner used slurs when talking about fellow Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and about women who work in city politics.
Kozlov reached out to Gardiner for comment, calling and then later knocking on his ward office door. Employees inside ignored Kozlov, and then shut the blinds.
These latest accusations against Gardiner – along with the language he used in those text message – is sounding alarms with Gardiner’s colleagues in the Chicago City Council and Cook County Democratic Party, where Gardiner is a committee member.
“All of these things are hallmarks of bullying,” said Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). “You know, each piece that comes out just shows us more who he is.”
Cassidy said she and 15 other committee members are signing a letter calling for an investigation into Gardiner’s conduct. At least 20 aldermen have signed another letter condemning it.
“They make it clear that these are actions that are disrespectful; that they’re inappropriate,” said Ald. Matt Martin (47th).
As for Gardiner, he never got back to us.MORE NEWS: 'We're Back': Store Owner Reopens Chicago Sports On Michigan Avenue After 2020 Unrest
A spokesperson for the Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office told CBS 2 they area aware that an employee may have improperly accessed a court document.