Texts Shine Light on Ald. Gardiner’s Penchant for Vengeance

In response to online discussions about Gardiner’s behavior at ward block parties, his former chief of staff and campaign manager shared disturbing texts on social media that give constituents a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Gardiner works and thinks.

“Say it to my face!”

The conversation started this past Saturday, July 17th, when 45th Ward resident JC Strzalka-Steil took to social media to relay his interaction with Gardiner at a block party earlier in the day. According to Strzalka-Steil, in front of children waiting at the snow cone stand, Gardiner confronted him over critical social media posts, saying “Say it to my face! How about you grow a pair of balls! Go f — yourself!” before storming off.

Stories like this about Gardiner’s behavior have circulated for some time; however, this is one of a small number of cases in which Gardiner’s target has spoken on the record about their interaction. Many prefer to remain anonymous, citing other incidents where Gardiner has retaliated against those who speak out with administrative harassment, hundreds of dollars in bogus citations, inspectors dispatched to homes and businesses, bricks through windows, and even publishing critics’ home addresses on his official Facebook page, one of whom suffered property damage at the hands of a Gardiner supporter.

Gardiner is also currently being sued in federal court in two civil rights cases, one for silencing critics on his official Facebook page and the other for allegedly orchestrating a false police report and arrest of a constituent. He was also under a year-long restraining order in 2017-18 for a disturbing pattern of stalking his former girlfriend, her friends, and her family.

Strzalka-Steil’s tweet was shared widely, reportedly receiving over 64,000 impressions within a week. Strzalka-Steil was formerly Martwick’s campaign manager in 2018 and then outreach director in Martwick’s state representative office.

In response to discussions about this incident in various online forums, Gardiner’s former chief of staff and campaign manager, Tanya King, shared several shocking texts dating back to her employment in Gardiner’s office. The texts paint a disturbing picture of Gardiner’s uncensored view of anyone critical of him, particularly women, and his kneejerk response to withhold city services from critics.

“This b — — on Kildare will pay…”

In response to discussion about Strzalka-Steil’s interaction, King shared information about this Saturday, June 8, 2019 text from Gardiner, following a block party on Kildare.

[Screencap removed to comply with Medium’s TOS]

King later shared another text from the day after a block party on Kenneth on Saturday, July 13, 2019.

[Screencap removed to comply with Medium’s TOS]

King also shared these explicit texts from Saturday, July 27, 2019. We reached out to King and verified the full context and authenticity of the messages.

The conversation starts with Gardiner writing, “Vicky came in on Ward night asking for a favor. I specifically told Gina do not help her until u talk w me 1st.”

[Screencap removed to comply with Medium’s TOS]

It’s clear that Gardiner was not happy that his aide at the time, Gina Munoz-Hahne, had provided constituent services to Vicky despite his admonition to withhold services. In response to learning that his office delivered on Vicky’s request for services, Gardiner writes,, “I specifically told Gina do not help her… Gina helps her get a tree trimmed, water leak, etc for her f — — BS block party next week. F — that c —.”

[Screencap removed to comply with Medium’s TOS]

The text thread continued to discuss Vicky’s complaint about water leaking with Gardiner asking where she lives. Gardiner makes it clear that his desire to withhold services from Vicky are based on a personal grudge saying “I told Dan [Vicky’s brother], I do not forget the shit she pulled w me during the campaign.” Gardiner concludes the conversation with, “These people deserved to be reminded of their petty ass behavior just months ago”. Reportedly Vicky donated to one of the other aldermanic candidates in the 2019 race.

[Screencap removed to comply with Medium’s TOS]

Munoz-Hahne, who had helped Vicky, was reportedly fired by Gardiner the following summer. Sources familiar with the situation say Gardiner cited “disloyalty” as the reason for termination. Gardiner’s office has been a revolving door of staff, with eight employees either terminated or who resigned to escape a toxic work environment in his first two years.

We have confirmed that the phone number which sent these messages is the same number listed by the Democratic Party of Cook County as contact information for Gardiner in his committeeman role.

These texts continue to shine a light on a petty, thin-skinned man in a position of power wields it against anyone he considers disloyal or critical. In Gardiner’s world, if you dare question or criticize his actions, or exercise your freedom to support a different political candidate, he will almost certainly seek some form of retribution.

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