by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Ald. James Gardiner (45th) publicly apologized to his colleagues on the City Council and to the city of Chicago on Tuesday, following the disclosure of a series of text messages in which he used slurs when talking about another alderman and women who work in city politics.READ MORE: Worries Of A 'Twindemic' As Flu Season Coincides With The COVID-19 Pandemic
The apology came as one of his colleagues launched an effort to hold public hearings on Gardiner’s behavior, and possibly vote to censure him.
“I stand before this body to offer my sincerest apologies for the pain and insult that anyone has endured as a result. I take full responsibility for my offensive words in those messages,” Gardiner said toward the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “I ran for office in the 45th Ward, because this is the community that helped raise me. My neighbors have become family, and my commitment to them fuels my desire to help create a thriving, welcoming, clean and safe neighborhood. Unfortunately, those comments do not reflect my values or the efforts of our team that works to make our ward a better place, and for that I’m deeply sorry.”
In some of the texts, which were obtained by the CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov, Gardiner refers to women as “bitch” and used that word to describe a fellow alderman.
In one text, after Gardiner is informed Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) was attending an event, Gardiner replied, “Nice. Is his bitch with him? White girl w blonde dirty hair?” Gardiner was referring to Anne Emerson, Waguespack’s chief of staff.
In another text, Gardiner refers to Ald. Tom Tunney as a “bitch” and a “f—ing snake” after Tunney showed up for a meeting, which Gardiner did not expect. The text ends with Gardiner saying, “F–k him.”
In yet another exchange, Gardiner refers to a local political communications director Joanna Klonsky as a “dumb bitch.”
While Gardiner had issued a written statement apologizing for those comments, and had apologized directly to Tunney, Tuesday was the first time he’d spoken publicly about the controversy.
“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,” he said. “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.”
However, Gardiner did not directly address a number of other recent controversies, including reports he used a ward staffer to get private court records he could use in retaliation against political opponents.
Gardiner’s public apology came on the same day Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) introduced a resolution calling on the City Council Rules Committee to hold a hearing on his text messages.
“We are deeply concerned about Alderman Gardiner’s apparent recurrent use of derogatory language about one of his colleagues, multiple women who work in and around City Council, and his own constituents,” her resolution states.
Rodriguez-Sanchez also wants the Rules Committee to look into reports Gardiner used a ward staffer to get private court records he could use in retaliation against political opponents.
She has previously taken to Twitter to call on Gardiner to resign.
CBS 2 obtained texts in which Gardiner suggested he used a ward staffer to get private court records he could use in retaliation against a political opponent.
James Suh lives in the 45th Ward. 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 told CBS 2 Investigator Dana Kozlov last week.READ MORE: Simeon Career Academy Student Shot And Killed Just Blocks From School
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.
Gardiner was late arriving to Tuesday’s City Council meeting, arriving shortly after a critic of his was speaking during the meeting’s public comment period, urging Gardiner to resign.
Pete Czosnyka, a frequent critic of Gardiner’s, has said his criticism has made him a target of retaliation.
A woman was caught on video destroying the front yard of his Northwest Side home with a sport-utility vehicle, and screaming loudly as she did so. Czosnyka said the same woman in the same SUV drove by hours earlier yelling at him to leave Gardiner alone.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Czosnyka claimed “there are more stories that will come out” about Gardiner’s behavior, and urged aldermen to join him and Rodriguez-Sanchez in demanding Gardiner resign.
“From a personality like Gardiner’s, any apology will be merely an effort to word salad his way out of a bad situation. An apology needs to be heartfelt, and Gardiner has not demonstrated evidence of human empathy. Apology without accountability is worthless, and the only accountability that is appropriate is Gardiner’s immediate resignation,” he said. “Alderman Gardiner, show some spine. Just resign.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot already has recommended the city’s inspector general look into Gardiner’s comments about women, his possible retaliation against political opponents, and reports of him denying services to constituents who have criticized him.
According to published reports, federal investigators have launched a probe into Gardiner’s conduct in office, including whether he retaliated against critics and political opponents in his ward.
City Council rules allow aldermen to censure or even expel “any member acting or appearing in a lewd or disgraceful manner, or who uses opprobrious, obscene or insulting language to or about any member of the Council.”
“Alderman Gardiner’s behavior does not have a home in our government, and his words and actions do not represent the values and vision of our city,” the resolution states. “The City Council must make it abundantly clear that we do not condone this kind of behavior from one of our members.”
After the meeting, Lightfoot said it’s not up to her to judge whether Gardiner’s apology was genuine, but she said he owes it to the public to do more than issue a prepared apology from the floor of the City Council. She said he should hold a press conference and take questions from reporters about the various allegations against him.
“The members of the media, the members of his community want to hear what he has to say, but not in a pre-scripted way,” she said.
She also doubled down on her call for a probe by the city’s inspector general.
Lightfoot said she is concerned not only about his use of offensive language in reference to Tunney and others in city government, but about claims he denied some constituents city services because they supported his opponent in the 2019 election, reports that he improperly accessed court records in an effort to retaliate against political opponents, and allegations that he sought to sanction businesses with whom he had political disagreements.MORE NEWS: Some Schools In Oswego Forced To Go Remote After Dozens Of Bus Drivers Call In Sick
“I don’t know the truth of any of these allegations, and neither does anybody else here, which is why we need an independent, fulsome, but expeditious evaluation by the inspector general, and I hope that happens sooner or later,” she said.