Ald. Gardiner and Ward Superintendent Made Sure Critic was “Dealt With”

In September 2019, 45th Ward resident Pete Czosnyka received notice in the mail that he was soon due in court, facing $675 worth of tickets for “weeds” in his yard and parkway. According to the citations, the “weeds” were not only too tall but allegedly harbored rodents.

The “weeds” were actually native prairie plants. And after getting a professional inspection, no evidence of rodents was found. Ironically, many of the prairie plants were originally purchased from the city’s former Department of Environment. According to Block Club, Czosnyka is the only Chicagoan to fight a weed ticket in court and win.

Communication records now suggest these tickets were not the typical case of mistaken identity when it comes the the city ticketing native plants as weeds, but rather a targeted act of retaliation by Alderperson Jim Gardiner against a vocal critic — something long suspected by many northwest side residents.

The notice of citation received by Czosnyka in September 2019

Czosnyka was recently the victim of another incident of targeted retaliation after an area woman drove her 2001 Ford Explorer through Czosnyka’s garden. In the course of the rampage, she also crashed into and totaled their neighbor’s car. Earlier in the day, according to Czosnyka, the same woman with the same license plate stopped by their home to warn Czosnyka to leave the alderperson [Gardiner] alone. Six days after the attack, police finally arrested and charged the woman, Maureen McGlade, with three misdemeanors.

Gardiner has not commented on the incident nor made any effort to denounce McGlade’s attack. Employing the tactics of stochastic terrorism, Gardiner has previously used his official government page to point his followers to Czosnyka’s home address.

Communications between Gardiner, 45th Ward Superintendent Charles Sikanich, and other ward staff indicate they were aware Czosnyka’s garden was not in fact weeds and their aim was retaliation.

Alderperson Jim Gardiner (source: WTTW Chicago Tonight, Feb 27, 2019) and 45th Ward Superintendent Charles Sikanich (source: Chicago Police)

Although Czosnyka first learned of the tickets in September, the citation and alleged inspection were written on Saturday, June 22, 2019, just one month after Gardiner took his oath of office. At the time, Czosnyka was a frequent commenter on the Gardiner’s official Facebook page. Although Gardiner blocked Czosnyka from commenting on his official Facebook page just three days later, now the subject of a class action civil rights lawsuit in federal court.

While the signature on the citations is difficult to make out, they were issued by Badge #1393. Records provided by the Department of Streets and Sanitation show that badge belongs to 39th Ward Superintendent Andrew Szorc, appointed by Alderperson Samantha Nugent. As reported in this 2006 Chicago Reader story, Szorc has a history of using dirty political tactics, such as issuing tickets, to silence and harass political opponents.

Szorc recently returned to his city employment after going out on disability leave for five months. According to city records, Szorc injured himself in November when he fell backwards while attempting to get into his city vehicle.

Written communications between Gardiner and ward staff show Gardiner asked, “Can I get Pete’s address again?” at 10:30pm the night before the tickets were written. His staff replied that evening with a screenshot of a page from a paid internet background check website showing Czosnyka’s home address.

A few weeks later, communications between Gardiner, Sikanich, and ward staff show a discussion about Czosnyka’s landscaping. In response to a photo of Czosnyka’s garden, Sikanich boasted, “Drew [Andrew Szorc] gave them $900 [sic] in tickets” adding, “that’s not grass at [sic] some kind of plant or something that the city allows you to have” and “I have make [sic] sure he’s dealt with.”

Sikanich appears to not only acknowledge these plants are allowed, but he also he seems to claim some agency for “Drew” writing tickets to ensure Czosnyka was “dealt with”. It’s unclear why Sikanich did not write the tickets himself. Perhaps it was an attempt to distance himself or at that time he may have still technically been an employee of CDOT where he had previously been an asphalt laborer and not yet empowered to issue citations.

The amended complaint in another civil rights lawsuit against Gardiner, Sikanich, and the Chicago Police Department makes mention of retaliatory tickets for weeds, presumably a reference in court documents to this citation and communications. The lawsuit argues Gardiner and Sikanich have demonstrated a pattern of harassment and use their official positions to do so.

We know there are more stories of harassment, corruption, and abuse of power out there. If you have any information, regardless of ward or official, you can contact us at peoplesfabric@gmail.com or DM us on Twitter or Facebook.

Chicago Northwest Side News. Watchdog. Holding public officials and candidates accountable.