Ex-alderman accused of using new city job to harass his opponent, promote $200M development

Ald. Jim Gardiner says the former 45th Ward alderman, John Arena, showed up at a public meeting to harass him and solicit support for his opponent for Democratic committeeman

Chicago /
Dec.December 23, 2019 02:00 PM
Former Ald. John Arena and Ald. Jim Gardiner

Former Ald. John Arena and Ald. Jim Gardiner

Another day, another Chicago-area official accused of abusing their political power.

This time it’s former Ald. John Arena of the 45th Ward, who’s using his job in the city’s Department of Planning and Development as a platform to continue fighting the man who beat him at the polls in February, according to his opponent, current 45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner.

Outside of a community meeting Tuesday night on a proposed $200 million senior living development on the old Sears site at Portage Park’s busy Six Corners intersection, Arena distributed literature and gathered signatures for Ellen Hill, who’s running against Gardiner for Democratic committeeman, the Sun-Times reported Friday. The literature included scripted comments to help area residents hold Gardiner accountable on the issue of affordable housing, Gardiner and other community leaders told the newspaper.

Also, Arena allegedly went into the meeting, sat in one of the front rows and gave Gardiner the middle finger.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Arena to the $129,996-a-year job in a Department of Planning and Development, which is supposed to be apolitical, Gardiner argues. He also takes issue with the fact that Arena is playing politics with a planning issue.

“How am I supposed to work with a department whose deputy commissioner is actively working against me with current developments going on in the ward?” Gardiner told the Sun-Times.

Gardiner said he and many of my colleagues had foreseen that Arena would continue to be “manipulative” and “problematic” in the 45th Ward.

Arena couldn’t be reached for comment but a Planning and Development spokesman denied the allegations, saying they’re “unacceptable,” and that the issue had been dealt with internally.

At least one resident who spoke to the Sun-Times backed up Gardiner’s story.

Last week, news broke of a federal investigation into former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and official actions he may have taken, including property valuations, in exchange for a benefit provided to a public official, employee, relative, friend or nominee.

[Sun-Times] — Brianna Kelly


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