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Homeowner wrongly fined for unmanicured lawn gets justice after accuser lands in court: ‘Sounds like HOA Karen energy’

“The arc of corruption in [this city] is long.”

"The arc of corruption in [this city] is long."

Photo Credit: iStock

Redditors were shocked to hear about a Chicago alderman who misused his position to retaliate against a critic by issuing citations for a 12-year-old native plant lawn.

WTTW reported on the case of Ald. Jim Gardiner, who was fined $20,000 in October 2023 by the Chicago Board of Ethics. The board found that Gardiner committed 10 total violations, each with a maximum $2,000 penalty.

"The arc of corruption in [this city] is long."
Photo Credit: Reddit

What were those violations? Enter Chicago resident Pete Czosnyka. Czosnyka is an avid gardener who, in 2011, purchased some native plants from the city, including flowers like black-eyed Susans, hollyhocks, and goldenrod, as well as the popular herb lemon balm. 

Using these low-maintenance, low-water, pollinator-friendly plants, Czosnyka rewilded his front yard, replacing the grass with this more eco-friendly mix.

That transformation was good for both Czosnyka’s budget and the environment, and it was perfectly legal. However, according to an investigation by Chicago’s Inspector General, Deborah Witzburg, Gardiner prompted city officials to ticket Czosnyka anyway in September 2019 for more than $600.

Czosnyka was eventually able to have the tickets thrown out by a judge.

WTTW reported that Gardiner’s unethical ticket scheme appears to have been in response to online criticisms and official complaints by Czosnyka against Gardiner.

Gardiner also has an apparent track record of illegally silencing critics, and he is under investigation for reportedly taking bribes, as well as facing lawsuits after allegations of other corrupt actions, according to WTTW.

Witzburg called the case a “landmark” for applying the maximum fines to a sitting alderperson. 

“The arc of corruption in Chicago is long,” she told WTTW. “We are bending it back.”

Czosnyka was also pleased with the outcome. 

“Knowing that Gardiner was found guilty provides a satisfaction that his aberrant behaviors have been formally recognized, gives me hope that IG Witzberg addressing the ‘deficit of legitimacy’ will make a difference going forward and that it will make other [alderpeople] think twice,” he said in an email published by WTTW. “The $[20,000 fine] will make it harder for [Gardiner] to explain his bad behavior to his political contributors.”

Commenters on Reddit were seriously unimpressed with Gardiner’s conduct. 

“For some people, you give them a little power and suddenly they are consulting their copy of The Prince as an operating manual,” said one user.

“Sounds like HOA Karen energy,” said another Redditor.

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