Public records show Charles Sikanich, Ald. Gardiner’s superintendent in the 45th Ward, petitioned for an Emergency Order of Protection against one of Gardiner’s former employees last summer. That petition was quickly dismissed by a judge for lack of evidence and our examination of the records raises questions about the truthfulness of Sikanich’s statements to both the court and police, as well as his intentions in seeking this order in the first place.
We covered some of this in November last year, but recently obtained records shed more light on the lengths Sikanich went to try to generate some court or police action against King.
First, it’s important to know what stalking entails. It’s not simply any instance of communication that someone finds objectionable or unwelcome. Illinois’ stalking statute describes stalking as “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety…or suffer emotional distress.”
For example, when a judge imposed a year-long restraining order against Gardiner in 2017, his former girlfriend described in her sworn affidavit multiple specific acts of unwanted contact, including Gardiner obtaining her new home address through unknown means, then waiting outside to approach her while telling her “not to run away from him.” The affidavit also describes Gardiner hunting down her friends and family, sometimes showing up uninvited at their places of employment to engage them. Reasonably, his actions caused his former girlfriend to fear for her safety and suffer emotional distress.
In contrast, Sikanich, a former asphalt laborer, claimed he feared for his safety from Ald. Gardiner’s former aide, Tanya King, now employed as a librarian, after she allegedly sent him some texts — and he claimed to have seen her nearby in a car once. That’s it. That’s the sum total of his “stalking” allegations, but it gets even weirder when we dig into the details.
Sikanich claimed to be in fear… while in a sea of police
In Sikanich’s petition last June, he claimed that he was “stalked” by King at 4:45pm on June 13 at 5501 N Northwest Highway. Sikanich wrote, King “drove in Honda car, stopped and stalked me while I was working for several minutes”.
If it were true, it’s unclear how a former coworker sitting in her car for “several minutes” nearby would cause a reasonable adult man to fear for his safety or suffer emotional distress; however, evidence strongly suggests this claims is pure fiction.
While his claim is brief, Sikanich manages to pack in several “facts” that do not jibe with reality:
- When Sikanich worked with King in 2019, she owned a Honda, so in his story, she was naturally in a Honda. As it turns out, unknown to Sikanich, King had sold her Honda months before this reported incident.
- At 4:45pm on June 13th, a large march in support of CPAC and BLM was heading south on N. Northwest Highway. Social media posts, police scanners, and photos/videos posted online all show the march had reached the exact location at the exact time he claimed to have been stalked by the phantom Honda. Police were swarming the area and had shut down traffic for some time to accommodate the protest. He would have literally been surrounded by police at the time he claimed to have feared King’s gaze from her Honda, on a street closed to traffic.
3. Geolocation data on King’s phone shows that she was at home, nowhere near this location, at the time reported by Sikanich.
4. Sikanich’s own city timesheets show that he didn’t clock in on the date he claimed he was working, though eye witness accounts from those attending the march say Sikanich was spotted blocking traffic with his city truck. Blocking traffic during a protest does not seem to be a normal duty of a ward superintendent, but does fit with his history of acting like he is the police.
Based on timestamps on court documents and his timesheets, Sikanich spent several hours at the Cook County Courthouse on the morning of Wednesday, June 17, 2020 trying to obtain this order of protection—while on the city clock. The documents require the petitioner to sign and attest to statements of fact “under the penalties of perjury.”
While Sikanich’s claim of in-person “stalking” is a pretty lame concoction, this wasn’t the only questionable claim he made to the courts.
Sikanich went on to claim that he feared for his safety because of text messages he alleges to have received from King, writing in his court petition:
“Accused me of being a pedofile. Accused me of actions that did not accure. Threatened me of loosing my job. Posting accusations on social media — that ruins my reputation. Trying to tarnish my reputation with social media by texting untruthful accusations. Constant harassment.” [All grammar/spelling errors were in the original]
Sikanich continued, describing another alleged text message:
“Accused me of pulling information that did not accure acused me of being a pedofile. Accused me of sending things to her house and job that did not happen.”
Note: To be clear, there is no evidence to suggest Sikanich is or has ever been accused of being a pedophile and no such claim is made here. We are simply reporting on words written by Sikanich himself in publicly available police and court records.
It’s unclear why Sikanich named Gardiner as a “protected person” in his petition, since none of his claims involved or mentioned Gardiner.
Not only did Sikanich waste the court’s time with his petition, but he also filed two associated police reports (view the reports) with the 16th District—at least one of which was taken by officers while Sikanich was on the City clock.
In the police reports, Sikanich claims he received “numerous” texts and had asked King to discontinue communication; however, he provided no evidence to the court or police to support those allegations. Sikanich is currently accused of filing a false police report in a civil rights lawsuit in federal court and has a previous arrest history including two shoplifting incidents, crashing into a parked car while under the influence of drugs, and battery while impersonating a police officer. Sikanich was also a central player in a scheme to levy hundreds of dollars in citations against a vocal Gardiner critic.
Again, even if Sikanich’s claims about the contents of the texts were true, are we to believe that the ward superintendent legitimately felt fear for his personal safety or was suffering emotional distress over a couple of texts?
The judge dismissed Sikanich’s petition, stating Sikanich failed to provide sufficient evidence to meet the legal standard to obtain an Emergency Order of Protection. The subsequent case for an Order of Protection was also dismissed a few weeks later by the judge for lack of evidence, before King even learned she was party to the court case.
To summarize, Sikanich used city time to go to the courts and police to claim he genuinely feared for his safety, telling a story of a former coworker who allegedly looked at him from a car she no longer possessed, driving on a road closed to traffic, while he was surrounded by dozens of uniformed police — and she also texted him.
Stalking by way of the courts
“Stalking by way of the courts” is a well-documented phenomenon, in which abusers turn the court system around on their victims to portray themselves as victims with false accusations, while inflicting further trauma on their targets, forcing them to spend time, money, and emotional energy in legal proceedings. It’s particularly concerning if such an abusive tactic is being used by a city supervisor in a position of trust, on city time, wasting the court’s time and taxpayer dollars.
It seems unlikely that Sikanich would have named Gardiner in his complaint without Gardiner’s knowledge, indicating he may have known Sikanich was taking time to go to the police and the courts. It’s unclear whether Gardiner directed Sikanich to take these steps, as he allegedly directed Sikanich to falsely report his phone as stolen, or if Sikanich did this on his own.
Officials within the Department of Streets and Sanitation failed to respond to our inquiries about this incident.
It’s unknown if there are other cases where Sikanich or Gardiner have employed this tactic with the courts to harass and retaliate against others. Given Gardiner’s enthusiasm for misusing citations and inspectors to retaliate against critics (see: weeds, eggs, permits/bricks, SSA, lawsuit), it’s perhaps unsurprising the courts are just another tool in that toolbox.