Ald. Jim Gardiner faces trial after trying to get revenge on a voter
CHICAGO – A business owner and resident of Old Irving Park is suing Ald. Jim Gardiner after the text messages leak showed that the alderman used the city’s resources in a revenge plot against him.
James Suh, owner of Car Care Auto Spa near the Six Corners business district, is suing Gardiner for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights and for attempted retaliation.
The complaint, filed Tuesday with the Cook County Clerk’s Office, claims Gardiner abused his power by digging up police records naming Suh for minor offenses dismissed more than a decade ago. The alderman would not have been happy that Suh organized a protest against Gardiner’s decision to block a development at Six Corners in 2019.
“It is disturbing that his immediate and instinctive reaction is to attack the constitutional rights of a voter,” said Suh, a vocal critic of the alderman. “I think morally it’s my duty to resist this. “
Leaked text messages between the alderman and his former staff member were shared with Block Club in September and on Tuesday Gardiner attempted to fight back against critics who disagreed with him, including Suh. According to the texts, the alderman had old police reports concerning Suh and planned to release the files to a Facebook group in the neighborhood.
Suh’s protest took place on the evening of October 5, 2019. On October 7, Gardiner had printed copies of two police reports involving Suh, according to the exchange.
In the post shared with Block Club on Tuesday, Gardiner told the former staff member, “I heard from our friends at 6c,” which means Six Corners.
About 20 minutes later, Gardiner sent his assistant photos of the court records and said, “Maybe this is leaked.” When his assistant at the time suggested they would look for a photo ID, Gardiner replied, “Find that shit.”
The time stamp on court records shows they were removed at 8:53 a.m. on October 7, according to text messages.
Gardiner then instructed his assistant to send the recordings to others, writing, “Put JH on that too. Only happy to help. Give it as a backdrop why we love to share.
According to the assistant, “JH” refers to the administrator of the Six Corners Neighbors Facebook group.
Suh said the court cases involved a brawl in 1998 and a charge of possession of a pocket knife in 2007 – both dismissed years ago.
“It has been a stressful time and I’m not happy to have any aspect of my personal life there,” he said, adding that people had referenced press articles about Suh’s past on social networks and in conversations.
“Gardiner’s original intention was fulfilled, so that this [lawsuit] is disheartening but necessary, ”Suh said.
Scott Kane, a partner at Cameron & Kane law firm representing Suh, said the prosecution sought to hold the alderman responsible for “spreading false statements of character” about Suh.
The lawsuit also seeks damages and an injunction action to leave Suh alone.
The lawsuit also alleges that Gardiner Parish Superintendent Charles Sikanich instructed his mother to remove Suh’s police records. Sikanich’s mother works for the Cook County Circuit Court clerk and has had access to court records inaccessible to the general public, according to the lawsuit.
“He used government employees to do this work,” Kane said of the alderman. “It wasn’t Gardiner in his spare time. He told his chief of staff and his [ward] Superintendent to launch a campaign of retaliation against my client for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights.
Sikanich is under investigation by the local division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after federal authorities seized a Steyr machine gun from him in August, according to records from the Sikanich. ATF.
Gardiner also faces a slew of allegations that include denial of child care to critics, use of foul language to describe women, and other potential misconduct.
The FBI, the Chicago Board of Ethics, the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, and the Office of the Inspector General have opened investigations into Gardiner’s conduct in office.
Tuesday’s lawsuit is the third brought against the alderman since taking office in 2019.
Former Far Northwest Side resident Benjamin George last year filed a federal lawsuit against Sikanich and Gardiner, alleging the two falsely accused George of a crime, harassed him and had him arrested because of a lost cell phone. In June, six residents sued Gardiner and the city for allegedly blocking them or removing critical comments on his Facebook page.
Suh hopes the trial will prevent the alderman from going after his critics and other voters who oppose him.
“We have now seen how thin the alderman is and how unable he is to tolerate even the slightest criticism,” Suh said. “I want this exposed and a court to rule against it.”
Gardiner’s office did not return requests for comment.
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