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Constituent James Suh Sues Ald. James Gardiner, Says Alderman Abused Power And Used Staff To Target Him

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Embattled Northwest Side Ald. James Gardiner (45th) was facing another legal hurdle Tuesday, as he was being sued by a constituent who claims the alderman abused his power and his office to target him.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, text messages from Gardiner to a staffer continue to haunt the alderman. The messages are about constituent James Suh.

Gardiner tells the employee in the text messages to dig up Suh's old arrest records. "Maybe that gets leaked," Gardiner texts.

This is all after Suh staged an anti-Gardiner protest in 2019.

Now, Suh is suing Gardiner over the texts – and the reason Suh believes Gardiner sent them.

"This is something that needs to be done," Suh said.

Suh believes that reason is retaliation for criticizing the first-term alderman.

"It's not about being a boar or being rude. It is specifically about the alderman using government resources – namely government employees – to retaliate against my client for his constitutionally-protected conduct," said attorney Scott Kane, who is representing Suh.

Suh's lawsuit comes two months after the city's Board of Ethics found probable cause that Gardiner violated the city's Ethics Code in Suh's case, as well as one other case.

Gardiner apologized to the City Council in September, but he never apologized to Suh – who said it is not enough that the Ethics Board is still investigating. Suh and his attorney said the civil lawsuit is matter of principle.

"I would certainly hope that it serves as a warning to really any elected official that you cannot use your authority and the resources of the government to try to punish people for speaking out," Suh said.

Suh said he expects retaliation from Gardiner's supporters for filing the lawsuit. But he is prepared.

"I think that this is necessary at this point," he said.

Kozlov called Gardiner's office asking for a comment or just the name of his attorney. In her most recent attempts to speak with Gardiner, Kozlov was shut down – when she has visited his office in the past, the people inside have drawn the blinds.

This time was no different.

Incidentally, this is at least the third ongoing lawsuit in which Ald. Gardiner is named as a defendant.

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