Fried Over Social Media Post, Ald. Gardiner Calls for Invest“egg”ation

In what appears to be yet another instance of Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) weaponizing his City allies and their resources against critics, investigators were sent on an urgent call to a resident’s home to investigate claims the homeowner was selling eggs.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Bella Ventresca, a resident of the 38th ward, posted on Facebook about a 2019 incident in which the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) dispatched two investigators to her home based on a complaint she was raising chickens and selling the eggs. With recent stories in the news about Gardiner allegedly retaliating against critics using official resources, Ventresca had suspicions the complaint may have originated from Gardiner in response to social media comments she posted at the time critical of Gardiner. She had sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to BACP, and we did likewise.

According to Ventresca and BACP’s records, in late August 2019, two BACP investigators showed up at her home to investigate alleged “illegal egg sales”.

Ventresca’s public Facebook post last month recounting this incident

BACP’s FOIA response suggests that Ventresca’s suspicions were warranted. The BACP complaint log shows it originated from an alderman’s office, with a priority of “URGENT” and complaint notes, “PLEASE CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION POSSIBLY SELLING EGGS OUT OF AN [sic] HOUSE — LIVE CHICKENS IN THE REAR. PHOTOS PLEASE.”

There is no limit to the number of chickens one may raise on private property in Chicago, and The Illinois Department of Agriculture website clearly states that no license is required and no limits exist on egg sales when sold from a private residents directly to members of other households.

The BACP investigators’ report concluded “the coop and hens were found well maintained…no foul odor was detected” and “no storage of eggs or packaging materials” was found. The report states investigators provided Ventresca with the Illinois Eggs and Egg Product Act which allows “eggs to be sold from a private residence.”

The BACP complaint was logged on August 20, 2019 — just one day after Gardiner and his Ward Superintendent, Charles Sikanich, harassed a different area resident who had the misfortune of finding Sikanich’s lost cellphone in a 7-Eleven. The events of that day are at the center of a current lawsuit against the two in federal court.

When contacted about this incident, former aides in Gardiner’s office, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that they recalled this incident. They said that Gardiner was angry about negative comments from Ventresca on Facebook at the time which referenced Gardiner’s Ward Supervisor’s rap sheet, he was aware she had chickens, and he had asked staff to contact BACP.

Coincidentally, last month Gardiner and BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno were both guests in a “State of the 45th Ward” virtual luncheon. Gardiner introduced Escareno to the virtual audience, “She’s not only beautiful, she’s very smart as well.”

In Escareno’s opening comments about how frequently she works with Gardiner she noted, “You’re calling me blowing up my phone constantly” and that she receives “emails in the middle of the day and the middle of the night” from Gardiner.

This incident adds to a growing list of Gardiner’s retaliatory tactics against residents over critical social media posts, including him forcing resignations from the Six Corners Association Board, targeting members of the Six Corners Special Service Area Commission, falsifying tickets against critics, and allegedly having his Ward Superintendent file false police reports and court petitions against residents and former colleagues.

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