Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration did an abrupt about-face on Friday, under fire for scrapping a Chicago Fire Department promotion list and running up overtime to get even with a controversial City Council member who was second in line to be promoted.
Human Resources Commissioner Chris Owen signed an order reinstating the 2009 lieutenant’s list “pending finalization of the corrected 2022” lieutenant’s list and called 30 people from that older list to be promoted to lieutenant.
It was not immediately known if those promoted included Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th), a Lightfoot critic.
Last week, Lightfoot was accused of taking down the old list — after making 41 promotions from it in April — to avoid promoting Gardiner, who is on a leave of absence from the Chicago Fire Department and has waited 13 years to become a lieutenant.
Number 42 on the old list was an employee on medical leave. Number 43 was Gardiner.
The city stopped at No. 41 and, until Friday, had made no promotions to lieutenant since April — despite 40 vacancies.
On Aug. 30., two white firefighters awaiting promotion to lieutenant filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court accusing the city of violating their rights by scrapping the list and suspending promotions.
Contacted earlier Friday after the order, but before the 30 promotions, Gardiner would only say the mayor’s reversal was “interesting.”
Last week, Gardiner did not mince his words.
He accused Lightfoot, with whom he has clashed repeatedly, of tossing a promotion list before all of the names had been exhausted just to get even with him.
“That’s an ‘F-you’ to me. … It highlights a pattern of being vindictive in trying to get back at people who have been known to disagree with her or not be on her side,” Gardiner said then.
“They never tear down a list like that with only 60 people or 100 people [left]. They always got to the end. But she basically screwed over 15 or 16 African American males to send a message to me. For somebody who continues to promote the fact that she’s all about helping the Black community, she sure found a way to screw over the Black community by tearing down a list to get back at a white male.”
Attorney Ruth Major filed the lawsuit on behalf of firefighters David Barron and Michael Lynch.
Major said Friday she has no idea whether the lawsuit, Gardiner’s tirade about the adverse impact on minorities, mounting overtime or last week’s Sun-Times story about the controversy convinced City Hall to restore the old list.
“It could just be that they maybe didn’t realize they hadn’t done this the right way and they want to do the right thing. It also could be that they’ve got people who are retiring from the lieutenant’s position. People who are being promoted to captain from the lieutenant’s position. And it could also just be self-serving in the sense that they need to fill these spots and the 2022 list is just not ready to start promotions off of,” Major said.
“I believe that this was the right act by the city to reinstate that list because the 2022 list continues to have problems. We never thought it should have been retired and it wasn’t retired in accordance with the city’s own hiring plan. We would hope that they have done this so they can go to the next step, which is to promote the remaining 68 people on that list.”
Last year, Lightfoot slammed Gardiner over profane, threatening and misogynistic text messages Gardiner sent to people, including Lightfoot’s political consultant Joanna Klonsky and Anne Emerson, chief of staff to Finance Chairman Scott Waguespack (32nd).
One week later, Gardiner rose on the council floor to issue a rare public apology for the embarrassment his messages caused. He received a rare rebuke from the Cook County Democratic Party and remains under federal investigation for allegedly retaliating against some Northwest Side constituents for political purposes.
Gardiner turned the tables on Lightfoot — with the Aug. 30 lawsuit to back up his claim.
He himself faces two federal lawsuits. One accuses him of harassing, intimidating and falsely arresting a constituent who picked up a cellphone Gardiner’s ward superintendent left at a convenience store. The other accuses him of violating the First Amendment rights of 45th Ward residents by deleting their criticisms of him from his official Facebook page. The city has refused to represent Gardiner in either suit.