Alderman Gardiner and his Deputy Argue Alleged Vigilante Behavior is “Fantastical” and “Implausible”. Their Records Suggest Otherwise.

The lawyer for Alderman Gardiner and 45th Ward Superintendent Charles Sikanich filed a motion to dismiss last week in the Case of the Lost Phone. The two defendants claim the case amounts to a “speculative conspiracy theory” which describes a “fantastical sequence of events by which [Gardiner and Sikanich] conspired to deprive him [Benjamin George] of his civil rights, apparently without prompting of any kind.” They argue aldermen serve a “purely legislative function” and the actions alleged are not “remotely connected to the legislative duties of an alderman, his deputy, or a streets and sanitation worker”; therefore, any activities outside of legislation or the responsibility of the Department of Streets and Sanitation are not within Gardiner and Sikanich’s job descriptions and cannot be an abuse of power. They go on to claim the behavior ascribed to Gardiner and Sikanich is “implausible” and if they did behave as described it would be “at odds with lawful behavior”.

Photo of aldermen’s badge (Former Ald. Ameya Pawar photo as provided to the Chicago Tribune in 2018)

Gardiner and Sikanich claim the two acting as “de facto vigilante police officers” who “took a police investigation into their own hands” is not plausible, yet a look at their past behavior demonstrates it’s not unusual for either of them.

As has been previously reported, just months prior to launching his run for Alderman, a year-long restraining order against Gardiner expired. The allegations which prompted a judge to issue the restraining order include:

  • Gardiner harassed the woman’s friends and family, “going so far as to look up their work addresses and attempted to contact them by going to their work
  • Gardiner “has contacted at least two of [the victim]’s friends at work”
  • Gardiner “contacted [the victim]’s mother by showing up at her residence… 1.5 years after” they’d broken up.
  • Gardiner “found [the victim]’s new address and approached her while she was walking her dog. James told [her] not to run away from him.”

Looking up friends and family of his victim, finding their employers, showing up at their place of employment to harass them, then finding the new, undisclosed address of his victim, and showing up at her home to harass her all sounds an awful lot like the actions described by the plaintiff in federal court. Given Gardiner’s employment at the time at CFD, one has to wonder what official resources he may have misused to conduct this research.

Gardiner’s official Facebook page often reads like a police larper page. In February, he posted a video to put a bounty out on the perpetrator of graffiti on a mailbox. In June, Gardiner posted identifying information about another graffiti artist who had been detained by a vigilante Water Department employee. That DWM employee just happened to Wayne Przyby, a Gardiner ally, donor, and board member at Copernicus Center, who ensured Gardiner promptly received photos of the incident to post on his official page.

On several occasions Gardiner has posted videos (here, here, and here) describing himself as out interviewing potential witnesses of crimes to gather information and asking people to call the police or him with any information about crimes. During the protests over the summer, Gardiner also posted several videos per day describing how he and “another staff member”, almost certainly Sikanich, were out patrolling the ward, sometimes until 3am, “making sure everything is safe.”

In August, Gardiner posted on his official page about himself and Sikanich intervening in a private situation in the parking lot of Binny’s, where tow truck drivers were enforcing the posted parking rules. Gardiner posted, “After identifying myself and informing the driver of who I was” he let them know their behavior would not be tolerated. In the photos, you see Sikanich’s Department of Streets & Sans truck blocking the tow truck drivers from leaving, much like police might do. Gardiner pressured Binny’s to fire the towing company, who then hired a new towing company to enforce the same rules.

None of these posts or actions are those of a legislator or Streets and Sans.

While Gardiner posts a lot of videos ostensibly about “law and order”, he has never addressed his hand-picked Ward Superintendent’s past run-ins with the law, nor has he commented upon the recent criminal conduct of Sikanich’s local family members, who are also employed by the City.

Perhaps when their lawyer argued acting as a “vigilante police officer” was “implausible” and “fantastical”, he was unaware Sikanich was actually arrested once before for “unlawful representation as a police officer.” Just four years prior going to work for Gardiner, Sikanich was arrested in 2015 for impersonating an officer and simple battery. According to the police report, he knocked on a woman’s apartment door late at night saying, “I’m with the Chicago Police Department and I need you to step out of the apartment so I can talk to you.”

Sikanich was arrested twice in 2012 for shoplifting. Once at the Kmart on Addison and just days before Christmas, he was arrested again for stealing merchandise from Addison Mall. He was arrested in 2011 for reckless driving, striking an unattended vehicle, driving under the influence of drugs, and driving without insurance.

Sikanich, who is accused in the current case of lying to police, seems he may have already perjured himself and lied to the courts once in an attempt to obtain a restraining order under false pretense against Gardiner’s former Chief of Staff, Tanya King. This summer, Sikanich petitioned for a restraining order, claiming he and Gardiner were “stalked” by King when she “Drove in Honda car, stopped and stalked me while I was working for several minutes” at 4:45pm on June 13, 2020 at 5501 N. Northwest Highway.

Unfortunately for Sikanich, he picked incredibly bad details for his false report. According to a social media post by King, she had sold her Honda months prior, after she left Gardiner’s employment. A fact Sikanich apparently did not know. According to city records, Sikanich did not work that day. And for the final nail in the coffin, on the exact date, time, and street address in question, a Black Lives Matter march had shut down Northwest Highway to all vehicular traffic. Not only was it impossible for vehicles to pass at that time, if Sikanich and Gardiner truly were at that location being stalked and threatened, they were sitting in a sea of police officers.

Sikanich’s motives for filing a false report against King are unclear, however it was done so under penalty of perjury. A judge declined to grant Sikanich’s petition for an emergency order of protection and dismissed his petition.

While the lawsuit describes police officers disparagingly referring to the plaintiff as a “gypsy”, Sikanich himself seems to have come from a family where criminal conduct is not uncommon. In addition to Sikanich’s own run-ins with the law, just this past October, Sikanich’s brother, Steven, was arrested in the 45th Ward after a police stop generated a hit on his license plate from a theft in May. On May 30, the same day Gardiner posted in support of “our brothers and sisters” in CPD, his Ward Superintendent’s brother was caught on camera and reported by the Children’s Lighthouse Daycare as entering the rear deck area of their property on Rockwell at 4:26am and “removed the vertical component of our outdoor umbrella for the children in our care”. He returned two weeks later to steal a boat motor from the same location.

In 2016, Sikanich’s other brother, Phillip, was arrested for attempting to steal a cart full of product from the Home Depot on North Ave. According to the police report, Phillip was caught attempting to steal a cart full of merchandise, including Windex, a strawberry plant, an LED light, a fan switch, a volt tester, and a Mr. Clean eraser. When a security guard attempted to stop him, Phillip bit him, adding battery to his list of charges.

Both Steven and Phillip work for CDOT as seasonal asphalt laborers, the same job held by Ward Superintendent Sikanich before getting a sudden promotion from Gardiner following his election victory.

City lawyers, in a motion filed two weeks ago distancing themselves from Gardiner and Sikanich, argued “at least three of the activities Plaintiff described are illegal” and “are clearly not of the kind that public officials like Gardiner, and public servants, like Sikanich, are authorized or expected to perform because they were either illegal, duties for police to perform, or were not in the City’s interest.”

Both Gardiner and Sikanich are issued official badges from the City, both of which appear similar to law enforcement badges. Reportedly, Gardiner keeps his badge in his truck, along with his police scanner, while Sikanich wears his badge around his neck on a chain — much like plainclothes police.

Given all of this behavior — and more we didn’t cover here — their argument that harassment and vigilante behavior lacking any rational explanation is “implausible” falls completely flat. Not only is it plausible, but there is abundant evidence Gardiner and Sikanich run around the ward with their badges in their official city truck acting as if they are the law. Both have behaved in almost exactly this way in the past and Gardiner has demonstrated he is comfortable hiring and standing by others who have share his same vigilante antics.

When officials and public servants take the law into their own hands, using a City vehicle during normal business hours to pursue someone they suspected of a crime, wearing badges given to them by the City, one has to wonder how any reasonable person wouldn’t think the two were acting in some official capacity. Certainly they acted as if they were.

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