Sposato blames “commie, lefty loons” for city ethics case over fire truck photo

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) on Wednesday blamed “commie, lefty loons” for accusing him of violating the city’s ethics ordinance by posting a picture of himself on Facebook dressed in firefighter’s gear in front of a city fire engine.

Sposato is one of three former Chicago firefighters currently serving in the City Council. He said the photo was taken while he was still an active firefighter and has been posted on his Facebook page since 2014 and featured in his campaign materials since his first election in 2015.

“That was like my main photo of me. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I can’t have a picture of me in front of my fire truck? It makes zero sense to me. Once a firefighter, always a firefighter. It’s almost like, once a Marine, always a Marine,” Sposato said.

Earlier this week, the Chicago Board of Ethics found probable cause to believe that Sposato’s use of the photo taken on city property wearing a city-issued gear violated that portion of the city’s ethics ordinance governing the use of social media by alderpersons and citywide elected officials.

Those 2019 rules require city officials to separate their political and personal accounts and promotional materials from materials and social media accounts used to promote city actions.

The goal is to clearly distinguish and separate “non-city business” from actions and activities “sponsored or endorsed by the city.”

If Sposato is found guilty of the violation, it could trigger fines of up to $5,000 for each violation.

But, the alderperson is hoping it doesn’t come to that. If he’s told the photo is a violation of the city’s ethics ordinance, he’ll take it down even though he strongly disagrees.

“If they say there’s something wrong with it, then alright. I’m not gonna fight ’em on it. I’ll just take it down.”

Sposato said the photo has been “up since at least 2014.” Why is it becoming an issue now?

“There’s this group of commie, lefty loons that are against [Jim] Gardiner, [Anthony] Napolitano and me. Everything we do, they file complaints against us fairly regularly,” Sposato said of his fellow former firefighters in the Council.

“Now, they’re complaining about a picture on my page, and it’s actually a page I haven’t even used in six weeks because, when I post on my open pages, it gives these goofs a chance to say stuff. So the last six weeks, I’ve only been posting on my personal page.”

(Clockwise from left) Alderpersons Samantha Nugent (39th), Jim Gardiner (47th), Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Nick Sposato (38th) pose for a photo before the start of a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall last year. It was the first in-person Council meeting since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Sposato said he does not believe the “violation” is serious enough to warrant a fine.

“The bottom line is, if they say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that. You need to take it down,’ I’ll take it down plain and simple. I’m not gonna argue or fight about it. I’ll just say, ‘What can I do? Is there something there that needs to be blacked out? Is the fact that the truck says Chicago Fire Department an issue? Is it wearing my fire coat?’ It’s an old picture I used for campaign stuff. It’s a little baffling to me.”

Last week, Sposato blamed a monuments commission “stacked” with, as he put it, “27 lefties and only three righties,” including himself, for recommending that three statutes of Christopher Columbus be permanently sidelined and that the Balbo Monument in Burnham Park be removed.

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