Ald. Gardiner’s Treasurer Quit, Yet Gardiner Still Files Under His Name

In an email last week to the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE), Alderperson Jim Gardiner’s treasurer informed the agency he is no longer with Gardiner’s campaign, asking them to intervene to formally remove him after Gardiner failed to do so despite multiple requests. Incredibly, yesterday, Gardiner continued to use the former treasurer’s name to attest to his latest filing — under penalty of law — raising questions about the authenticity and accuracy of Gardiner’s financial disclosures going back to 2019.

Jason Baumann, who was the treasurer for Gardiner’s political campaign committee at its inception, sent the email to ISBE requesting to be formally removed from the committee on July 8. Baumann says that he has asked Gardiner to remove him on “previous dates.”

While Baumann’s letter does not specify how long ago he stopped performing the duties of treasurer, former members of Gardiner’s campaign have said Gardiner and Baumann had a falling out which led to Baumann’s departure from the campaign as far back as February 2019. Financial records seem to support this, showing Gardiner paid Baumann $2,750 in late 2018 with a final payment of $750 in January 2019.

According to ISBE: “The treasurer of a political committee is responsible for keeping detailed accounts, records, bills and receipts that will verify all information shown on official reports.” The treasurer’s role is also to advise campaign staff or volunteers on fundraising rules and reporting requirements, such as not accepting donations over $1,500 from city contractors.

Financial disclosure reports must be signed by either the candidate or the treasurer attesting to the completeness and accuracy of the information under penalty of law. Every report Gardiner has submitted to the State Board of Elections has Baumann’s name listed — including his disclosure file yesterday — supporting the possibility that this has been going on for much longer.

If it turns out Baumann has not been performing the duties of treasurer in over two years, that would mean more than thirty reports submitted to the State were falsely attributed and attested to with Baumann’s name.

Ald. Gardiner’s July 15, 2021 financial disclosure, falsely attesting under penalty of the law with his former Treasurer’s name.

The treasurer is required by law to maintain all records and receipts for a political committee, to ensure contributions are recorded correctly, and to advise the candidate and staff on campaign finance laws. If he has had no treasurer, it’s unclear who, if anyone, is maintaining these records or providing guidance. Gardiner recently blurred all ethical lines when he held a political fundraiser which listed his office aide Maree Joyce — his new Ethics Officer! — as the primary contact.

In Gardiner’s most recent A-1 filings he misreported over $8,400 in donations. ActBlue is a organization that acts as a passthrough for fundraising. Their instructions — printed on their website and with every check — remind the recipient that no donations should be recorded as “from ActBlue”. Each must be individually recorded for the person or entity who donated. Reporting donations this way obscures the identity of dozens of donors and violates Illinois’ campaign disclosure requirements.

This is campaign finance reporting 101, it’s difficult to understand how anyone with experience would make this error. So who is really acting as Gardiner’s treasurer, making these mistakes?

ActBlue donations improperly filed on Gardiner’s latest A-1 filings with the State Board of Elections.

All of Gardiner’s reports have been submitted to ISBE by Jack Hogan, a CPA in Wheaton. Hogan is not without his own controversy and is the Director of Finance at the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Hogan is involved in handling finances for many political campaigns. It’s unclear when Hogan knew Baumann had left Gardiner’s service.

A portion of a recent Ald. Gardiner campaign financial disclosure report, indicating the report was submitted by accountant Jack Hogan.

According to ISBE data, Gardiner paid Hogan a grand total of $250 in 2019. Gardiner had paid Hogan nothing since then, until Thursday’s filing, which disclosed a new payment of $250. Hogan appears to have submitted every one of Gardiner’s disclosures during the two years between payments, charging only $250 every two years for his services.

People can donate goods and services to campaigns; however, it’s required by law that anything of value, other than cash, be recorded as “in-kind contributions.” Gardiner has reported no in-kind contributions from Hogan. ISBE can trigger an audit of a campaign’s books in cases where there is a pattern of reporting errors, the cost of which is borne by the campaign.

Baumann’s official departure is just the latest in a revolving door of staff. In the past two years, at least eight employees have left Gardiner’s ward office.

Gardiner has a history of failing to notify the appropriate agencies when critical staff leave. For example, when the original aide trained to be his ward office’s Ethics Officer resigned, Gardiner failed to notify the Board of Ethics as required. Like a treasurer, the Ethics Officer is tasked with making sure things are done properly, ethically, and that lines aren’t crossed between politics and official duties — something Gardiner has struggled with as he spends taxpayer money on personally branded clothes, signs, materials to campaign for Willie Wilson, and bonuses for the wife of one of his political henchmen, all while he allegedly had a constituent falsely arrested and dispatches inspectors to harass critics.

Ultimately, it took Gardiner nearly a year to name a replacement Ethics Officer, only doing so after the Board of Ethics was notified of the vacancy by a resident. He is now on his third Ethics Officer in two years — and she’s his main point of contact for political fundraisers.

We reached out to Gardiner, Baumann, and Hogan to inquire into how Baumann’s name was used for so long, why they signed Thursday’s disclosure as Baumann after he formally was removed from the committee, who has been maintaining receipts to comply with the law, how did the experienced accountant manage to misreport over $8,400 in donations, and why did the accountant provide free, undisclosed services to Gardiner and other area politicians for years? All of them failed to respond to our inquiries.

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