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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Ald. Jim Gardiner Should Be Investigated For Harassing Challenger’s Volunteers, Ethics Board Tells City Watchdog

The investigation adds to a series of other investigations, lawsuits and allegations against the alderman, who is seeking a second term.

Ald. James M. Gardiner (45th) votes no to a police settlement case at a City Council meeting on Sept. 21, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) is under investigation by the city’s watchdog again for allegedly harassing and threatening volunteers of one of his challengers in an argument that was partially caught on video.

The November incident, which happened in Norwood Park, shows Gardiner drive up to volunteers collecting signatures for candidate Marija Tomic. Gardiner spends a few minutes speaking with the canvassers and tells them they should “run a clean campaign” and “know what you’re talking about,” according to the video, which was shared with Block Club.

Volunteers who were present for the argument previously said that the alderman accused them of lying about him and one volunteer thought Gardiner was going to punch him.

The Chicago Board of Ethics voted unanimously on Dec. 12 to ask the Office of the Inspector General to investigate the incident, alleging the candidate violated multiple city ordinances, including prohibited political activity provisions “by allegedly harassing individuals gathering petition signatures on behalf of an electoral opponent,” according to its summary of initiated investigations.

At the same meeting, the board also voted unanimously to ask the inspector general to probe another allegation involving Gardiner, according to WTTW. The second complaint claims campaign material supporting Gardiner’s bid for reelection was posted in a city facility, in violation of the city’s Government Ethics Ordinance.

In line with its rules, the board did not name the alderman in either decision.

The complaints were also filed with the Office of the Inspector General, the board said in its December meeting minutes.

The incident marks the second time the ethics board has asked the city’s watchdog to investigate Gardiner’s conduct. In November 2021, the board asked inspectors to investigate their findings that the alderman violated the city’s code of conduct for “withholding city services” to a political opponent and leaking a constituent’s criminal records in acts of revenge.


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Gardiner has called the video of the Norwood Park incident a “desperate attempt to gain leverage while diverting attention from relevant issues affecting our community” but did not answer specific questions about the incident.

Gardiner, who is under federal criminal investigation and faces a series of other allegations and lawsuits, is seeking a second term in next month’s election. Challenging him are Ana Santoyo, a longtime activist and library page; organizer and historian Susanna Ernst; attorney Megan Mathias; Jefferson Park resident Marija Tomic; and business owner and community organizer James Suh.

In a previous statement, he said his reelection campaign is being run with “merit that addresses the needs and concerns of residents while building upon the many achievements that have been accomplished since being elected.”

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