CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle has removed Chicago Ald. James Gardiner (45th) from his four committee assignments, as the party formally rebuked him for “abhorrent and despicable” behavior during his time on the City Council.
“The Party has confirmed he has employed misogynistic, homophobic, and obscene language and engaged in verbal harassment, against a colleague, a staff member of another, and his own constituents,” the party said in a statement on Monday.READ MORE: Bears Set To Take On Packers For First Time Since Aaron Rodgers Told Fans, 'I Still Own You;' Jimmy Graham Says Trash Talk Is Par For Course
The move comes after the party launched an internal investigation of Gardiner’s behavior, in the wake of multiple media reports that he retaliated against constituents who criticized him, and a series of offensive and misogynistic text messages in which Gardiner used slurs when talking about another alderman and women who work in city politics.
“There are numerous examples of personal invectives and insults, uncontrolled rants, and verbal abuses—accompanied by boorish, obnoxious, repugnant, rude, and vulgar conduct—over the past two years. These actions—the epitome of incivility—are abhorrent and despicable, have no place in public discourse, and bring disrepute upon our Party,” the party said in a statement. “Because this continuing course of conduct has no home in our Party, we will not stand silent in the face of such bigotry. These words and actions by an elected public and Party official do not represent the values and vision of the Cook County Democratic Party. We make it abundantly clear that we will not condone this type of behavior from one of our members and consequently officially and formally rebuke and disapprove of his actions.”
Preckwinkle has removed Gardiner from all of his committee assignments within the party; including the Appellate Court Selection, Candidate Recruitment and Evaluation, Circuit Court Selection, and Supreme Court Selection committees.
Last month, the city’s ethics board has determined there is probable cause to believe Ald. James Gardiner (45th) twice violated the city’s government ethics ordinance, by using his office to retaliate against constituents who criticized him or supported a political rival.
If the board makes a final determination Gardiner did violate the ethics ordinance, he could face a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.READ MORE: Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews Has Scored No Goals So Far This Season, But He's Motivated To Work On Game
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.
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.
Meantime, leaked text messages obtained by CBS 2 also show constituents who disagree with the freshman aldermen are often targeted by Gardiner, among them a resident to whom he tried denying city services.MORE NEWS: First Illinois Case Of Omicron COVID-19 Variant Confirmed In Chicago Resident
He also used insulting and misogynistic language when referring to a fellow alderman and women who work in city politics in other text messages leaked to the media.
Political consultant Joanna Klonsky and aldermanic aide Anne Emerson both were the targets of disparaging texts sent by Gardiner in 2019. The messages were sent to a former staffer who leaked them to CBS 2.
In some of the texts, which were obtained by 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 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 Klonsky, a local political communications director, as a “dumb bitch.”
Gardiner has apologized for his text message rants, but has denied acting on any suggestions of retaliation against constituents.
He’s also facing a federal investigation – which has been going on for months.
Kozlov has confirmed that federal investigators have launched a probe into Gardiner’s conduct in office, including whether he retaliated against critics and political opponents in his ward. Published reports state federal investigators also are looking into claims Gardiner took bribes and demanded payments before taking official actions.
The Board of Ethics and Mayor Lori Lightfoot both have called on the city’s inspector general to investigate Gardiner’s behavior.
At least one member of the City Council, Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), has called on him to resign, and has introduced a resolution calling on the City Council Rules Committee to hold a hearing on his text messages, and to possibly vote to censure him.
That resolution has yet to be brought up for a discussion by the Rules Committee.